Coronavirus lockdown: Gardens at Audley End set to reopen in July but house will remain closed
English Heritage has announced that Uttlesford beauty spot Audley End gardens will reopen in July – although the country house will remain closed.
In common with the charity's other sites, to ensure coronavirus social distancing, visitors will have to pre-book. Slots will be available to reserve this month.
English Heritage, which manages more than 400 historic monuments, buildings and places, opened the first phase of six at the weekend: 1066 Battle of Hastings, Abbey and Battlefield, East Sussex; Beeston Castle and Woodland Park, Cheshire; Brodsworth Hall and Gardens, South Yorkshire; Kenilworth Castle and Elizabethan Garden, Warwickshire; Old Sarum, Wiltshire; and Wrest Park, Bedfordshire.
Audley End's grounds – designed by 18th-century landscape architect Lancelot "Capability" Brown, known as "England's greatest gardener" – a restored parterre and organic kitchen gardens will be part of the second phase of 45 locations to reopen on Saturday July 4.
By Saturday August 1, it is hoped that every English Heritage site will once again be open.
Across the board, English Heritage is introducing arrival time slots, which must be booked in advance, even by EH members, and limiting visitor numbers by about a third.
The National Trust, which operates Hatfield Forest, began reopening its properties from June 3, but a date has yet to be set for the attraction near Takeley to allow visitors again. As with English Heritage, the trust is operating a pre-booking system for its sites.
THE HISTORY OF AUDLEY END
Audley End, a 17th-century mansion, was once one of the greatest houses in England. Now just a third of its original size, between 1605 and 1614, Thomas Howard, 1st Earl of Suffolk and Lord Treasurer to James I, took an earlier house created by his grandfather and rebuilt it on the scale of a royal palace.
Indeed it was so grand that, half a century later, it was bought by Charles II as a staging post on his trips to Newmarket races.
The Howards bought Audley End in 1701 and gradually reduced it in size before celebrity architect Robert Adam modernised the house in the 1760s for Sir John Griffin Griffin.
At the same time, Sir John commissioned Capability Brown to sweep away the remains of the formal landscape, to create one of England's finest landscape gardens.
In the 1820s Richard Neville, later 3rd Lord Braybrooke, remodelled the house to restore its original Jacobean character and it is largely his taste that prevails in the house today.
During the Second World War, Polish soldiers of the Special Operations Executive secretly trained there, preparing to be parachuted into German-occupied Poland.