Britain’s Historical Houses: Audley End House and Gardens, Saffron Walden

The British Landscape is rich with ancient and majestic houses, hidden away in the nooks of cities and in the depths of the countryside. Britain’s Historical Houses therefore explores these houses and brings their stories to you, our readers.

Here we will be exploring the Audley End House and Gardens, Saffron Walden.

If you want to feel like you’ve taken a step back in time and are in a period drama, then Audley End House and Gardens is the place for you. This 17th century Mansion house, located just outside of Saffron Walden, used to be the site of a monastery which was granted to Lord Chancellor Sir Thomas Audley by Henry VIII. Lord Audley was an instrumental part in King Henry VIII’s takeover as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

The building of the house has a lot of scandalous history attached to it. Thomas Howard, Lord Audley’s grandson, is said to have embezzled (from the King!) a large portion of the £200,000 spent renovating it. Howard and his wife were sentenced to death in 1619 for this but after paying a hefty fine were granted a pardon and lived the rest of their years in disgrace. We told you there was scandal!

In 1668, this palatial-looking home became palatial by name when Charles II bought the home to use when attending the races in Newmarket. He spent an incredible £5 for it!

This historical house has since been renovated and is under the stewardship of English Heritage.

There’s lots to see and do when you visit Audley End House and Gardens. Here are some of the must-see highlights:

  • Take a walk in Audley End’s famous Gardens – The gardens offer a tranquil and beautiful setting for the house and were renovated in the design of influential landscape designer Capability Brown. The garden is separated by the River Cam which you can cross via “ornate bridges”. We recommend that you take a moment to see the ‘Tea House Bridge’ and the ‘Adam Bridge’ whilst perusing the gardens. You should also check out the ‘Organic Kitchen Garden’ which boasts over 100 varieties of fruit and vegetables. You can even buy your own fruits and vegetables, as well as gorgeous flowers, at the Potting Shed weekdays between April and October. To find out more, particularly the season highlights, click here.
  • Have a cup of tea – There are two cafes in Audley End House.  The Tearoom serves light lunches using ingredients from the gardens, as well as drinks and snacks, whilst The Cart Yard café serves sandwiches and drinks. Take your pick! For more about the cafes, click here.
  • Take a bit of history home – The House’s shop sells ‘Victorian Gardens’ range of items plus other great souvenirs from books to jewellery to food and drink.


  • Meet the characters – Take a step back in time and meet the characters that would have lived in this grand historical house. We would also recommend going to see the resident horses in the stables yard.

With its great history, its grandiose design and its delicious home-grown foods, this House will offer hours of entertainment for you. And for the kids, there’s a children’s play area next to the café! Guided tours of the House are available, so be sure to check those out also. For more information on what’s on, go to the events page here.

The House is open to the public from 12:00 – 17:00 April to September, whilst the gardens are open longer, from 10:00 -18:00. For more on opening times, including off peak opening hours, click here.

Adult admission is £15.40 and a child (5-15 years old) ticket is £9.20. Family and other concession tickets are available. For more information, and to book, click here.

Need somewhere to stay when you visit Audley End House and Gardens? How about a house with even MORE history? The Cross Keys is a charming boutique inn in the heart of charming market town, Saffron Walden, Essex. The inn dates all the way back to the 12th century, and along with it, consists a rich historical background. The Inn underwent a refurbishment in 2012, bringing the historic building back to life, resulting in the perfect combination of period details and contemporary design. The quality of each guest’s stay is a priority at The Cross Keys, therefore you can expect everything from Hungarian duck feather duvets, Nespresso machines, monsoon showers, to flat screen TV’s, iPod docks and Wi-Fi. Other than the luxurious amenities, The Cross Keys takes enjoyment of food and drinks very seriously. It wouldn’t be a relaxing getaway without good food and alcohol right? If you agree, then you must give their food and drink a try – especially the famous cheesecake from Molly’s Coffee and Cake Shop. An added bonus of staying at The Cross Keys is that it’s only a 30 minute walk or a 7 minute drive from the Audley End House and Gardens!

Have fun at the Audley End House and Gardens!

Audley End House, Audley End Gardens, Audley End Shop and Meet the characters images by Karen Roe