I swear King Henry VIII is stalking us. Yesterday, yet again, he turned up the same place we did. We hadn’t planned it – in fact, we were on our way to somewhere else when we were sidetracked by the sign to “Audley End” just outside the town of Saffron Walden.
Audley End started as an Abbey away back in 1140. By the early 1500’s, King Henry VIII was busy with the “dissolution of the monasteries,” which is royal code for “tear them all down and take all the money.” His second reason for destroying all the monasteries was that they were loyal to the pope, and so this was Henry’s way of telling the pope, “You’re not the boss of me!” And you’ll remember Henry wanted to be his own boss, so he could marry whoever – and how many times – he wanted.
So Henry gave Sir Thomas Audley permission to buy the property (that’s how things worked back then), and Thomas built a house on the same foundations as the abbey. His grandson tore it down and rebuilt one even more elaborate in 1602-3, and today it is just a small part of that house which still survives, and is still owned by the original descendants.
We joined a small historical tour of the gardens being given by an enthusiastic volunteer, and enjoyed an hour admiring the outside of the house and its grounds, including the work restoring the gardens to their former glory. There was no photography allowed inside, but I would have loved to show you the carved woodwork in the Great Hall, stretching upwards for two stories. And the bedrooms with Jacobean fireplaces you could walk right into, and the bed prepared for a visit by King George III that cost 25,000 pounds ($50,000) but, because he never slept in it, no one else has been allowed to sleep in either.
And the library, with over 10,000 books, including a 1552 manuscript copy of John Lydgate’s “Fall of Princes” in middle English verse. It was on display under glass and covered by a cloth, which a volunteer uncovered so I could look at it in person. *sigh*
English Heritage has restored the laundry, dairy, kitchen and other servants’ quarters. Since tickets for Highclere Castle (the set for Downton Abbey) are all sold out for 2015, this is probably the closest we will come to seeing how the servants of Downton Abbey would have lived and worked.
The day finished with another evening of trivia in the local pub, and our team did much better than last week. But still no prizes! We REALLY don’t know anything about British trivia. Of course it didn’t help that one answer was Avril Lavigne, but I absolutely insisted it was Alanis Morissette.
Not that anyone else had ever heard of either one.
Not even Barry. 🙂