Audley End House & Gardens, Essex December 2019

by Emma Bumpus on December 23, 2019

December takes Careertraveller to Essex for some seasonal Christmas sugar and spice at the grandiose Audley End House and Gardens.

A countryside drive through the medieval market town Saffron Walden with it’s old-fashioned buildings and quaint parish church is the perfect entrance to Audley End’s magnificent Jacobean mansion. Giant Iron gates with Coade stone lion statue are a journey back to 1786 when Thomas Lord Audley Howard, chancellor to Henry VIII, converted the foundations of this Benedictine monastery into an estate.

A majestic front of house entrance brings an intoxicating mix of classical architecture and elegant Capability Brown landscaped gardens that step into England’s story. Show stopping ‘king’ and ‘queen’ porches overlook a great lawn of infinite sweeping meadow and contrasting trees, which complemented amongst tranquil lakes and feature Adam stone bridge set the scene for a unique visitor experience.

Caught in a garden of gardens with meandering river Cam is a revelation of historical eye candy that includes the 1883 Polish war Memorial, built to commemorate soldiers based at the house during The Second World War. We time travel back further to 1771 with sight of architect, Robert Adam’s Temple of Victory in the distance with a former ‘hunting stand’ that celebrated victory for England and Prussia in the Seven Years War (1756-1763).

Immersed in history we head for the Service Wing, which artistically separated from the house with giant yew topiary reveals an oversize Christmas tree that puts us in the mood for the Preparing A Victorian Christmas event. A side entrance takes us back to the late 19th century when successful owners of the house, including the Braybooke family employed nearly 30 servants to run the house.

History comes alive as we step into an authentic freestanding and open planned Victorian kitchen where we are greeted by cook Mrs Crocombe and her professional staff from Past Pleasures Ltd dressed in authentic period costumes. In a bustle of festive Christmas commotion they re-enact bygone stories around a large wooden table amongst pendulous copper pans, traditional kitchen utensils and centrepiece range cooker that smacks of arduous cooking and elegant feasts.

The sweet smell of Christmas unfolds in the kitchen for Christmas dinner to be served to the Lord and Lady of the house with Victorian recipes that dazzle us with colour, technique and indulgence. Oranges and lemons take centre stage and kick-start a hands – on demonstration of plum pudding, mince pies and aromatic Prince of Wales Punch, whose liquor and citrus aromas sit ready for a banquet.

From adjacent pastry larder and cook’s room staff busy themselves with chores and whilst dividing their time between the scullery and dry larder they reveal Lord Braybooke’s favourite dishes and entremets. Amidst the suet and mixed spice to candied peel and roasted sirloin we unearth mincemeat menus from the 1840s that once filled the Victorian kitchen with Christmas zing both the ‘upstairs’ and ‘downstairs!’

Engaged and entertained visitors flock in and out of the kitchen for an eye opening show of on the spot historical interpretation and cookery that resonates. Surrounded by lavish Victorian puddings including flamboyant jelly and intricately iced Christmas Cake, the unusual Nesselrode Pudding beams with seasonal chestnut pride.

As the fire is stoked and the cooking continues we head outside for a tour of the estate and encounter the south Mount Garden, whose geometric paths and Parterre form the perfect backdrop for the Audley End December Enchanted event. An illuminated trail, fairy light maze and mirror ball alley anticipate evening to transform Audley End House and Garden into a floodlit world full of light, colour and sound.

Audley End House and Garden are a tribute to English Heritage who conserve and manage the estate, bringing English history to life.

Further Information

Audley End House and Garden

English Heritage

Past Pleasures Ltd

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: