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Audley End House and Saffron Walden – Thursday 22nd September 2016

We had a lovely sunny day for our visit to Saffron Walden in Essex. Many of us embarked on the “town trail” seeking out the pretty timber framed houses with their decorative plaster work called “pargetting” and the magnificent Parish Church of St Mary which, rebuilt in the Perpendicular style between 1470 and 1525, was flooded with light and colour. Lord Audley (original owner of Audley End) is buried there.

Lord Audley was Henry VIII’s Lord Chancellor and was given Walden Abbey (a former Benedictine Priory) by the King. Audley turned the former abbey into Audley End House.

Audley End was our next destination. Whilst extensively changed at various times, the house still boasts some stunning Jacobean interiors. It was once one of the largest and most opulent houses in Jacobean England.

During the first half of the 18th century, successive owners were forced to reduce the size of the house. Then, in 1762, the house was inherited by the wonderfully named Sir John Griffin Griffin.
It was Sir John who engaged Robert Adam to make some alterations to the house and to add a magnificent set of ground-floor reception rooms. At the same time Lancelot “Capability” Brown was commissioned to remodel the grounds.

The house had been requisitioned by the army in WW2 and whilst the attic rooms were stripped out for that purpose, they have recently been restored. The attic rooms now comprise a Victorian nursery (based on watercolour pictures painted by one of the daughters of the last family to live in the house) and, a coal store! The innovative coal “gallery” on the top floor meant that the servants could heat water (pumped from below) for baths for the ladies and gentlemen of the house.

Outside the house we enjoyed the immaculately maintained Capability Brown landscape complete with garden buildings and bridges designed by Robert Adam. Some of us went on a tour of the gardens to see the restored parterre garden, which was still very colourful despite the lateness of the season, and the large organic kitchen garden with its espaliered fruit trees which were full of apples of pears. 

A cup of tea and cake in the sunshine completed a wonderful day out. Many thanks to Tina Feilden for planning and organising it.

Fay Gammer

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