History and Stories

Audley End House and Gardens: History and Stories

Audley End was once one of the greatest houses in England, a spectacular early 17th-century mansion set in an outstanding landscaped park. Now just a third of its original size, its history is one of vastly fluctuating fortunes, with episodes of ambitious development followed by periods of decline and retrenchment. This story is evident in both house and park – in the changing use of the rooms, the contrasting taste in interiors and garden styles, and the diverse collection of paintings and objects that reflect the owners and their times. 

Explore the history of Audley End House and Gardens here.

Carved figures from the Jacobean oak screen in the great hall at Audley End
Carved figures from the Jacobean oak screen in the great hall at Audley End

Key facts about Audley End

  • Audley End was one of the greatest houses of early 17th-century England. Between about 1605 and 1614, Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer to James I, took an earlier house created by his grandfather and rebuilt it on the scale of a royal palace. 
  • So grand was it that about 50 years later Charles II bought it as a ready-made palace, which was handy for the Newmarket races. But the Howards bought Audley End back in 1701, and gradually reduced it to a more manageable size. 
  • The celebrity architect Robert Adam modernised the house in the 1760s for Sir John Griffin Griffin. At the same time, Sir John commissioned ‘Capability’ Brown to sweep away the remains of the formal landscape, to create one of England’s finest landscape gardens. 
  • In the 1820s Richard Neville, later 3rd Lord Braybrooke, remodelled the house to restore its original, Jacobean character. It is largely his taste that prevails in the house today. 
  • During the Second World War, Polish soldiers of the Special Operations Executive secretly trained here, preparing to be parachuted into German-occupied Poland. 

History and Collection


    Read a full account of Audley End’s long and varied history, from the priory founded on the site in the 12th century to the present day.


    During the Second World War, Audley End was used as a training base by the Polish Section of the Special Operations Executive. Discover their incredible story. 

  • Speaking with Shadows: The Silent Unseen

    In this episode of our Speaking with Shadows podcast, Josie Long visits Audley End to discover the story of the Poles who trained here during the Second World War.

  • Capability Brown at Audley End

    Find out how England’s foremost landscape gardener fell out spectacularly with Sir John Griffin Griffin, the owner of Audley End.


    Discover how John Griffin Griffin installed domestic inventions and comforts at Audley End that were well ahead of their time.

  • Collection Highlights

    View detailed images of some highlights from the diverse collection at Audley End – from paintings to natural history tableaux.


    Discover some of the secrets of The Vegetable Seller – revealed through recent conservation and technical analysis.

Below Stairs at Audley End

In Victorian times, the lavish lifestyle of aristocrats like Lord and Lady Braybrooke at Audley End was sustained by armies of servants. In the 1880s they employed well over one hundred people in the house and across the estate.

Take an in-depth look at the lives of the men, women and children who worked at Audley End in the 1880s, from Avis Crocombe the cook to Bert Fall the yard boy.

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Explore Audley End

  • Description of Audley End

    Read a description of this impressive house and its gardens, which have been shaped by various owners over the centuries.

  • Download a plan

    Download this PDF to explore detailed plans and elevation drawings of Audley End that reveal how the house has developed.

  • Four Centuries of Change

    Explore architectural highlights of Audley End and close-up views of some of the portraits that hang in the house with this Google Arts and Culture exhibit.

More resources


    See all the recipe videos featuring Avis Crocombe, cook at Audley End in the 1880s, and find out more about her life. 


    This beautifully photographed book features fully tested and modernised recipes from Avis Crocombe’s cookbook.

  • Why does Audley End matter?

    Find out why Audley End is a site of such value, both for the architecture and contents of the house and for its 18th-century landscape.

  • Research on Audley End

    Read a summary of the current state of research on Audley End, with details of excavations, investigations and areas for future research.

  • Sources for Audley End

    Use this list of written, visual and material sources for our knowledge and understanding of Audley End for further research into its history.


    Delve into our history pages to discover more about our sites, how they have changed over time, and who made them what they are today.

Plan your visit


    One of England's finest country houses, Audley End is also a mansion with a difference. Enjoy a great day out.

  • Seasonal Garden Highlights

    Take a journey through a year of seasonal garden highlights at Audley End to discover something new with every visit. 


    The guidebook offers a complete tour and history of Audley End house and Gardens, and brings the house to life with stunning photos and historic images.


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