Audley End House

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Audley End House
TypeCountry house
LocationSaffron Walden
Coordinates52°01′15″N 00°13′14″E / 52.02083°N 0.22056°E / 52.02083; 0.22056Coordinates: 52°01′15″N 00°13′14″E / 52.02083°N 0.22056°E / 52.02083; 0.22056
Built17th Century
Architectural style(s)Jacobean
OwnerEnglish Heritage
Listed Building – Grade I
Official name: Audley End House
Designated1 November 1972
Reference no.1196114
Official name: Audley End
Designated1 July 1987
Reference no.1000312
Audley End House is located in Essex
Audley End House
Location of Audley End House in Essex

Audley End House (grid reference TL524381) is a largely early 17th-century country house outside Saffron Walden, Essex, England. It was once a prodigy house, a palace in all but name and renowned as one of the finest Jacobean houses in England. Audley End is now one-third of its original size, but is still large, with much to enjoy in its architectural features and varied collections. The house shares some similarities with Hatfield House, except that it is stone-clad as opposed to brick.[1] It is currently in the stewardship of English Heritage and long remained the family seat of the Barons Braybrooke.[2] Audley End railway station is named after the house.


Audley End was the site of Walden Abbey, a Benedictine monastery that was granted to the Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Audley in 1538 by Henry VIII. The abbey was converted to a domestic house for him and was known as Audley Inn. It was demolished by his grandson, Thomas Howard (Lord Howard de Walden,[1] 1st Earl of Suffolk, fourth creation, and Lord Treasurer), and a much grander mansion was built, primarily for entertaining the king, James I.

The layout reflects the processional route of the king and queen, each having their own suite of rooms. It is reputed that Thomas Howard told King James he had spent some £200,000 creating this grand house, and it may be that the king had unwittingly contributed. In 1619, Suffolk and his wife were found guilty of embezzlement and sent to the Tower of London but a huge fine secured their release. Suffolk died in disgrace at Audley End in 1626.

At this time, the house was on the scale of a great royal palace, and became one when Charles II bought it in 1668 for £50,000[2] for use as a home when attending the races at Newmarket. It was returned to the Suffolks in 1701.

Over the next century Sir John Vanbrugh was commissioned to work on the site and parts of the house were gradually demolished[1] until it was reduced to its current size. The main structure has remained little altered since the main front court was demolished in 1708 and the east wing came down in 1753.

The Great Hall

Sir John Griffin, fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke, introduced sweeping changes before he died in 1797. In 1762, he commissioned Capability Brown to landscape the parkland, and Robert Adam to design new reception rooms on the house's ground floor in the neoclassical style of the 18th century with a formal grandeur.

Richard Griffin, 3rd Baron Braybrooke, who inherited the house and title in 1825, installed most of the house's huge picture collection, filled the rooms with furnishings, and reinstated something of the original Jacobean feel to the state rooms.

Audley End was offered to the government during the Dunkirk evacuation but the offer was declined due to its lack of facilities.[3] It was requisitioned in March 1941[3] and used as a camp by a small number of units before being turned over to the Special Operations Executive. The SOE used the house as a general holding camp[4] before using it for its Polish branch. Designated Special Training School 43 (STS 43), it was a base for the Cichociemni. A war memorial to the 108 Poles who died in the service stands in the main drive; the Polish SOE War Memorial, unveiled on 20 June 1983, was Grade II listed in 2018.[5]

After the war, the ninth Lord Braybrooke resumed possession, and in 1948 the house was sold to the Ministry of Works, the predecessor of English Heritage.

Gardens and grounds[edit]

The Capability Brown parkland includes many of the neo-classical monuments, although some are not in the care of English Heritage. The grounds are divided by the River Granta, which is crossed by several ornate bridges one of which features on the back cover of the BBC Gardeners' World Through the Years book,[6] and a main road which follows the route of a Roman road.

With help from an 1877 garden plan and William Cresswell's journal from 1874,[6] the walled kitchen garden was restored by Garden Organic in 1999 from an overgrown, semi-derelict state. Completed in 2000, it was opened by Prince Charles and features in a book presented to him on his wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles.[7][8] It now looks as it would have done in late Victorian times; full of vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers which have been supplied to the Dorchester Hotel.[6] It now boasts 120 apple, 60 pear and 40 tomato varieties.[9]


The house contains paintings by Canaletto,[10] Jan Asselijn, Jan Brueghel the Younger and Giovanni Battista Cipriani.[11]

Media appearances[edit]

The house and grounds have been used in popular television and radio shows, including Flog It!, Antiques Roadshow and Gardeners' Question Time.[12][13][14]

During 2017, scenes were filmed at Audley End for Trust produced by Danny Boyle and based on the life of John Paul Getty III.[15] On 7 September 2018, scenes were shot for The Crown.[16] Previously, interior shots of the Library and Great Hall had been used to portray rooms in Balmoral, Windsor Castle and Eton.[17][18]

Audley End appears in a popular series of videos on English Heritage's YouTube channel featuring the character of Mrs Crocombe, head cook at the house during the 1880s.[19]


  1. ^ a b c Hadfield, J. (1970). The Shell Guide to England. London: Michael Joseph.
  2. ^ a b "History of Audley End House and Gardens". English Heritage. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  3. ^ a b Valentine 2004, pp. 55-56.
  4. ^ Valentine 2004, p. 66.
  5. ^ Historic England. "Polish SOE War Memorial (1451516)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 23 December 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Search, Gay (2003). BBC Gardeners' World Through the years. London: Carlton Books Limited. ISBN 1-84442-416-2.
  7. ^ "Featured organic vegetable garden". Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  8. ^ "Garden book present for Charles". 9 April 2005. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  9. ^ "Blue Peter - Audley End House and Gardens". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  10. ^ "Audley End Collection". English Heritage. Retrieved 18 November 2017.
  11. ^ Anon 2006, p. 220.
  12. ^ "BBC One - Flog It!, Series 11, Duxford". BBC. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  13. ^ "BBC One - Antiques Roadshow, Series 39, Audley End 1". BBC. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  14. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Gardeners' Question Time, Audley End". BBC. Retrieved 20 November 2018.
  15. ^ "BBC - Trust - Media Centre". Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  16. ^ "TVs Crown at Audley End". Walden Local. 12 September 2018.
  17. ^ Shahid, S (17 October 2017). "The Crown: We spent the day at filming location Audley End House". Hello Magazine. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  18. ^ Robinson, Anne (1 December 2017). "THE CROWN: HISTORY'S ROLE IN BRINGING THE MODERN MONARCHY TO LIFE". English Heritage. Retrieved 20 November 2017.
  19. ^

External links[edit]