What a lovely week it’s been and the sun shining down only made our trip to Audley End House even more pleasurable as the impressive stately home stood proud against the back drop of the glistening river Cam set in quintessential English idyl countryside.The reason for our visit was to see the unveiling of the £1.1m project by English Heritage as new rooms; the nursery suite and coal gallery are unveiled. A watercolour was found of Lucy’s bedroom and formed the base of the transformation along with fragments of the original vine trellis wall paper. Transported back to the 1830s when the 3rd Lord and Lady Braybrooke and their young family were living at the house, the nursery suite provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the eight children as they once were, delving into the story of childhood in a Victorian country house.The restoration of the nursery rooms came to our attention some time ago when an order came in to us here at Lamps and Lights. It’s always nice to know when our products are used in restoration projects of such like English Heritage and National Trust properties, so it was our pleasure to spend the day exploring this marvelous, once royal, residence.
Pretty much on our doorstep as just over the Cambridge border into Essex, Audley End House in Saffron Walden has such an amazing history. First built as an Abbey by monks it saw many a change of ownership and downsizing.
Walden Abbey was a 12C Benedict Monastery when in 1538 Henry VIII gave it away to Lord Audley for converting into his family home. It was extensively remodelled in early 17C to accommodate the King, the very unusual twin front porches highlight the unusually symmetrical state apartments of the King and Queen’s North and South wings, rivalling neighbouring Hatfield House. Bought by Charles II in 1666 as a ready made palace it was later returned to the Howard family by William III who deemed it “too old fashioned”. The Howard family reduced its size immensely, from palace to stately home and it became merely the ‘winter home’ of the family’s many residences.
The house has had an eventful history with many an important name attached; Capability Brown and Robert Adam‘s work can both still be seen in places. But it was in 1825 when the estate was passed to Lord Braybrooke that the original Jacobean character was recovered and is how it can mainly be seen today. After decades of slow disrepair Audley End House and Gardens served as the Special Operations secret headquarters to the Polish Army during the Second World War, it was then purchased for the nation by English Heritage from the 9th lord Braybrooke in 1948 for £30,000 with all the interior furnishings left on loan.
The grandeur inside is astonishing with ornate ceilings, Gothic chapel, silk-lined walls and all the original paintings. I was totally unaware of the importance of such a ‘house’ and it was a delight to learn about this little piece of local history.