Calling all groups and culture seekers! Major makeovers at English Heritage sites Audley End House & Gardens in Essex and Wrest Park in Bedfordshire make for some sparkling days out in the East
Aristocratic Audley End House & Gardens
Audley End House & Gardens – a stunning Jacobean stately home standing in magnificent grounds and pastoral parkland located at Saffron Walden near Cambridge – offers a glimpse of Victorian life above and below stairs.
Inside the main house there are lavishly decorated rooms to explore filled with treasures including paintings by masters such as Holbein and Canaletto.
Visitors can see the Victorian nursery suite and get a sense of the lives of the eight children who did their lessons, played and slept there. Plus, they can walk through the Victorian coal gallery, with bunkers filled with coal and pails and jugs lined up ready to replenish the fires, baths and basins in the rooms below.
Throughout, Audley End House feels like a home with a roaring fire in the Great Hall’s fireplace, a grand piano for visitors to play in the library, and bedrooms re-dressed to evoke the 3rd Lord & Lady Braybrooke’s return after a night out.
Adjoining the main house is the Service Wing, with scullery, wet and dry laundry, dairy and dairy maid’s sitting room, game larder and kitchen. At every turn, visitors are greeted by ‘virtual’ servants and the sights, sounds and smells of the 1880s. At peak times, costumed actors authentically play the parts of cook and other servants, plucking game for the table, cleaning silver, scrubbing linen and telling tales of life on the estate.
It is advised to plan in at least a whole day stay at Audley End to allow enough time to visit the estate surrounding the mansion – including the horses and their grooms in their luxurious stable block.
Garden lovers can also enjoy walking through the extensive 18th-century landscaped parkland dotted with ornamental garden features created by renowned designer Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown – born 300 years ago (1716). There is also a beautiful 19th-century parterre, filled with scented flowers and an acclaimed Organic Walled Kitchen Garden, where old varieties of vegetable and fruits are grown and tended in the traditional way.
Audley End House & Gardens, Saffron Walden, Essex, CB11 4JF
Tel: 01799 522842
Email: [email protected]
Magnificent Wrest Park
Wrest Park’s recently restored 90-acre grounds are totally unique as they represent 250 years of garden design style in one location. There are interactive exhibitions inside the 18th-century French style mansion with a selection of staterooms on the ground floor open to view, plus a sculpture gallery in the original Dairy to enjoy.
Just introduced is a three year exhibition with historic photographs and diary entries evoking Wrest Park’s role as a convalescent home during the Frist World War – 1600 men passed through its wards after it became the first country house to take in wounded soldiers.
Visitors less able to walk around to see every part of the extensive site can take a ride in a motorised golf cart to explore the restored walks and woodland areas, stop off at the amazing Baroque and French-style buildings and enjoy views of the statues throughout this lovely historic landscape.
‘Aladdin’s Cave’ In Store
A collection of over 153,000 English Heritage historical artefacts – ranging from small buckles, brooches and coins, to fireplaces, staircases and even an enormous crane used for changing street light bulbs – have been brought together into a storage facility at Wrest Park.
Guided tours with knowledgeable volunteers take place at the start of each month or can be pre-booked for groups to go behind the scenes for a sneak peak at some of the fascinating treasures, which make up to a third of English Heritage’s total stored archaeological collection.
Wrest Park, Silsoe, Luton, Bedfordshire, MK45 4HR
Tel: 01525 860000
Email: [email protected]
Groups of 11 or more people receive a 15% discount at English Heritage properties (10% at Stonehenge). A tour leader and coach driver are admitted free with each group. Free familiarisation visits can be arranged for the travel trade.
To discuss opportunities for group visits, or to order a complimentary copy of the 2015/16 Group Visits Guide, call 020 7973 3529