I’ve been visiting Audley End House since I was a child – my first trip was with my Primary School. One of my most memorable trips though was just a few years ago on a special English Heritage members-only experience when we had the chance to explore the nursery which at that time was empty and hadn’t been used for many years.
The nursery rooms were last in use during 2nd World War in the 1940’s when the house was used by members of the British and Polish armies. Since then they had been left empty and un-loved. On the members visit we saw the faded Victorian wallpaper, the mark on the walls where a Victorian dolls house had once stood, and “graffiti” left by the soldiers.
In 2014 the nursery suite was completely re-furbished and presented as it would have looked in the 1830’s, when Audley End was the home of the 3rd Lord and Lady Braybrooke and their eight children: five boys and three girls. It’s been brought back to life to show the world of privileged children, their nursery maids and governesses. The five Braybrooke boys spent much of their time in the nursery and the grounds of the house until they were eleven or twelve and were sent away to school at Eton. The girls spent most of their time in the nursery where they were educated by governesses until their education was considered complete at the age of seventeen or eighteen.
The details for the decorations, furnishings and toys have been meticulously researched and re-created, using as a main source a painting of the nursery by one of the Braybrooke girls. The painting shows the nursery as a bright and sunny place, but on my first visit on a cold day in January, the rooms were very dark and gloomy, but on a rare sunny August morning the sun streamed through the windows and the rooms were a fun and happy place to be, just as the picture had shown.
The nursery still welcomes children, as there is a beautiful original wooden Victorian rocking horse for them to ride on, toys and puzzles to play with and clothes to dress up in. The attention to detail is fantastic and visitors feel very welcome. .
I loved my visit, it brought the day to day domestic details of the house to life. The state rooms are beautiful, but it’s visiting the nursery alongside the kitchens, the laundry and the Coal Gallery that help you understand the people of the house and how they lived. It’s always the domestic that fascinates me.