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Audley End House
Audley End House () is largely an early 17th century country house, just outside Saffron Walden, Essex, south of Cambridge, England. It was once a palace in all but name, and renowned as one of the finest Jacobean houses in England. Audley End is now only one third of its original size, but is still large, with much to enjoy in its architectural features and varied collections.
Audley End was formerly the site of a Benedictine monastery (Walden Abbey ), granted to Sir Thomas Audley in 1538 by Henry VIII. It was converted to a domestic house for him, known as Audley Inn. This dwelling was later demolished by his grandson, Thomas Howard (the first Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer), and a much grander mansion was built, primarily for entertaining 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 on creating this grand house, and it may be that the King had unwittingly contributed. In 1619, Thomas and his wife were found guilty of embezzlement and sent to the Tower of London. However, a huge fine secured their release but Howard died in disgrace at Audley End in 1626.
At this time, the house was on the scale of a great royal palace, and soon became one after Charles II bought it in 1668 for 50,000 pounds, for use as a home when attending the races at Newmarket. It was returned to the Suffolks in 1701.
Over the next century, the house was gradually demolished until it was reduced to the size we see today. However, the main structure has remained little-altered since the main front court was demolished in 1708, and the east wing came down in 1753. Some rooms have been substantially remodelled, though, especially the huge Hall.
Sir John Griffin, later fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke, introduced sweeping changes before he died in 1797. In 1762, Sir Griffin commissioned Capability Brown to landscape the parkland, and Robert Adam to design new reception rooms on the house's ground floor, which he did in the style of the 18th century with a formal grandeur. The Great Drawing Room proved problematic as it had to be the grandest room for receiving guests but it possessed a very low ceiling, and this was considered most undesirable at that time. Robert Adam solved the problem to a large extent by making the furniture unusually small, and lowering the chair rail. His design of the Little Drawing Room for the Ladies was exceedingly odd, based on the style of ancient Rome, and Lady Griffin had difficulty moving between the columns when dressed in her evening gown.
The third Baron Braybrooke, who inherited 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.
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