Audley End House and Gardens
Successive owners of Audley End made changes to the house, but in the 1760s retired soldier Sir John Griffin Griffin began a series of works that transformed the property.
He sought advice from two of the most fashionable and sophisticated designers of the Georgian period: architect Robert Adam and landscape gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown.
The frieze around the walls in the Saloon was originally created for the long gallery, which was demolished in 1753 by Sir John’s aunt, Elizabeth Griffin, Countess of Portsmouth, the then owner. The house was falling into disrepair at the time and the countess was forced to reduce it to a manageable size.
Margaret Audley, Duchess of Norfolk (1540–1564)
Margaret Audley was the daughter and heiress of Lord Audley. In early 1558 she was betrothed to her fifth cousin, Thomas Howard, 4th Duke of Norfolk. A papal dispensation was required for them to marry, since his first wife, Lady Mary FitzAlan, had been Margaret’s first cousin.
Edward Griffin, 1st Baron Griffin (c.1630–1710)
Edward Griffin was Lieutenant-Colonel of the Duke of York’s regiment of foot guards. He was the treasurer of the chamber to both Charles II and James II.
He followed James II into exile and was with his son, the titular James III, in France until 1707/8, when he was taken prisoner while on a mission to Scotland.
In 1745 the 10th Earl of Suffolk died childless and intestate, and Audley End House and estate were divided among the Howard family. Audley End’s survival was due to the Countess of Portsmouth.
In 1751 she bought the house and park from Lord Effingham for £10,000 and added them to her adjacent share of the estate. She was childless, but her chosen heir was John Griffin Whitwell, her sister Anne’s eldest son.
Lady Portsmouth employed the London builders John Philips and George Shakespear to reduce and remodel the house. All the alterations were undertaken in the Jacobean style, reusing material from the demolished parts to preserve these historic features.
The avenues in the park had been felled for the value of their timber by the impoverished Howards. In their place the countess introduced informality to the landscape, planting trees in a ‘natural’ fashion.
In 1784 Sir John achieved a lifelong ambition when George III recognised his claim to the barony of Howard de Walden.
As well as restoring the Saloon as a picture gallery of his Howard ancestors, Sir John employed Robert Adam to design some of the finest neoclassical interiors of the period. Much of this work survives today.
Peter Moore, Rose Arkle