Childrens’ stories brought to life at Audley End House & Gardens as new rooms unveiled in Spring 2014

Audley End House will reveal even more of its fascinating past when it opens up the nursery suite to

Audley End House will reveal even more of its fascinating past when it opens up the nursery suite to the public for the first time as part of a £1.1m project. - Credit: Archant

CHILDRENS’ stories will brought to life when English Heritage restore the Audley End nursery suite as part of a £1.1 million project.

The rooms, belonging to the eight children – five boys, three girl – of the third Lord Braybrooke (Richard Neville) and his wife Jane Cornwallis, will be conserved, refurbished, dressed for the 1830s and open to the public for the first time in Spring 2014.

The project team is fully investigating everything available to piece together what the 1830s and 40s nursery on the second floor of the Jacobean mansion would have looked like.

Drawing evidence from surviving fabric of the nursery suite through analysis of paint, wallpaper and joinery, to reading household accounts, letters and diary extracts, such as from Joseph Romilly a frequent visitor giving a great account of the house in the mid 19th century; everything is being scrutinised.

There are also clues found within the visitor book detailing the comings and goings of the family and guests and exquisite watercolours of the nursery painted by the young Braybrooke girls.


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Within this fine example of a late Georgian/early Victorian nursery formed out of former servants’ rooms, visitors will be able to explore life in the nursery for the Braybrooke children from the ages of four or five and their succession of wet nurses, nursery maids and governesses – at a time when aristocratic children were rarely seen or heard by their parents.

The suite of rooms in which they spent so much of their young lives - sleeping, doing schoolwork, eating a wholesome diet of ‘nursery food,’ reading and playing with toys – will give an insight into the somewhat sheltered lives of the children. The five brothers - Richard, Charles, Henry, Latimer and Grey – grew up there until they went to Eton at the age of 11 or 12, and their three sisters Mirabel, Louisa and Lucy, remained at home in the charge of governess Mary Dormer until their education was considered complete at 17 or 18.

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Created as a nursery in 1822, the rooms still retain some original features from cupboards and closets, to fireplaces, bed pole and a dolls house that can be seen in one of the watercolours of the 1840s and will feature prominently in the new displays.

Another previously unseen part of the house also opens next year - the coal gallery. Perhaps, a unique surviving example of an upper floor service gallery, retaining many of its 19th century and earlier features, the coal gallery will be dressed to demonstrate its important role in supplying coal and hot water to the upper floors of the house. Originally created by Sir John Griffin Griffin in 1762, the gallery has been adapted many times over the years, being subdivided into smaller rooms at one point. Nevertheless one of the three or possibly four, coal bunkers still survives, as does a copper used for heating water and the remains of a crane used to hoist coal up from the ground below. Coal would have been delivered by crane to the second floor coal gallery, where it was stored before being carried to fireplaces in rooms on the first and second floors.

There’s more to see in other parts of the house too – with improved presentation in the State Rooms including the magnificent State Bed, made for Sir John Griffin Griffin in 1786 in anticipation of a visit by George III which sadly never happened, although it was subsequently slept in by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester in 1819 and the American Ambassador, George Bancroft and his wife Elizabeth.

The sound of music will be heard once more in the library as a piano is installed and a roaring fire reinstated in the Great Hall. Sections of the Audley End family scrapbook will also be reproduced and on permanent display for the first time, taken from a magnificent collection of engravings, maps and prints of Audley End and its associated families, compiled by the 2nd Lord Braybrooke in around 1809. Plus, new interpretation on the servants’ bells system in the Bell Lobby and lighting beside the Lamp Room, demonstrating how important new technology was in smoothing the running of the country house.

English Heritage is also looking for volunteers to get involved in this exciting new phase of helping bring the house to life, as never before been seen by the public. They are looking for volunteers from 11am to 5pm on any day of the week between April and October. There may even be a post for a pianist! For more information visit english-heritage.org.uk/volunteering or call 01793 445009.

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