Audley End House
Built by the first Earl of Suffolk, Thomas Howard, this 17th century Jacobean country house sits in splendid grounds designed in the 18th century by Capability Brown. Amazing to think this 'palace' is now only 30% of its original size; it must have been huge.
Forward a couple of hundred years and inheritance saw the house falling into the hands of Richard Aldworth Neville in the 19th century, who later became the 3rd Baron Braybrooke in 1825. The Baron then set about restoring Audley End House to the building we see today.
The house is now administered by the English Heritage, while many of the Braybooke's collections are on public display. This means a ban on photography which is a shame. It's full of interesting pieces from art, to doll's houses to taxidermy.
Another annoyance is the lack of information boards as you wander the house. There are cards but not enough in busy periods. You can ask the room stewards but sometimes it's nice just to amble in your own little world.
The gardens and grounds are a joy. Stroll and sit for a while in the formal gardens, while the kitchen garden is full ideas for home. Displays of succulents were particularly good.
One last gripe, it's £19.00 for an adult which I think is a little steep. Another ploy to get people to join English Heritage.