It was September, my husband had his friend over and I’d had a bad week at work. So I thought it best for everyone including myself if I got a bit of head space and went out for the day. I was offered free tickets to visit Audley End back in May, an offer which ran until the end of September – so off I went solo, with this post concluding my Summer 2022 England series.
Audley End was once the site of a monastery, which OF COURSE was demolished by Henry VIII in the 1500s. I seem to write that sentence about every historical home in England! It was then converted in to a home, which Queen Elizabeth I stopped at in 1578.
The house belonged to the Howard family (related to Catherine Howard, one of Henry VIIIs wives), and in the 1600s the initial house was demolished by Thomas Howard, the Lord Treasurer to build a much grander palace for entertaining King James I.
It turns out though that Thomas Howard had embezzled money from the Crown, and though he boasted that he had spend £200,000 on the house (about £26m in today’s money!), it turns out he had stolen most of this. In 1619, Howard and his wife were found guilty of embezzlement and sent to The Tower of London – he died in disgrace in 1626.
Since then, Samuel Pepys (of diary fame) visited Audley End in 1667, and in 1668 King Charles II bought the house as a home to use when attending the races at nearby Newmarket. Then in the 1700s it was transferred to the Barons Braybrooke, to whom it still remains partially owned today. The site is now operated by English Heritage and open to visitors.
During WW2, Audley End was used as a camp by a small number of units before being turned over to the Special Operations Executive. The SOE used it for its Polish branch. Designated as Special Training School 43, it was a base for elite paratroopers of the Polish Army in exile to train before undergoing operations in occupied Poland. A war memorial to the 108 Poles who died in the service stands in the main drive.
Getting to Audley End is simple if you have a car. It’s a 20 minute drive from Cambridge, 1.5hrs from London and also close to Colchester, Ipswich, Milton Keynes, Bedford and all the surrounding areas.
If you don’t have a car, then the nearest station is either Stansted Airport, Bishop’s Stortford or Cambridge – from where you can get a taxi taking a max of 20 minutes.
Other Things To Do Nearby
Whilst you could easily spend a day at the house itself, there are some other nice places to visit which are great to add on if you have a car.
If you’re in to beautiful villages, then look no further than Wendens Ambo – be sure to head to Church Street to take in the beautiful cottages and take a stroll down Duck Street.
A great option for dinner at the end of the day, Saffron Walden is a small market town. It’s named after the famous spice which was actually grown here in the 16th and 17th centuries! Here you could visit the ruined Walden Castle, explore the country’s largest turf maze or just explore the many medieval buildings.
Depending on which direction you’re coming from, you could also tie in a visit with Duxford Imperial War Museum near Cambridge, or Mountfitchet Castle and Norman Village near Stansted.
What do you think of Audley End House? I really enjoyed my day trip there and it definitely helped clear my head and give me some much needed space. Thank you for reading – stay safe and happy travelling!