Posted 11th Aug 2016
Essex has some truly wonderful heritage sites, combining inspiring gardens with truly historic gems
One of Essex's grandest country houses is Audley End (right), full of Jacobean splendour. The history of the house, along with the people who lived and worked there over the centuries, has been brought to life, allowing the whole family to travel back to Victorian living. This summer, events are centring on the stables, so visitors can find out about the Victorian horse riding experience. More can be found out here.
Saffron Walden (left) has a treasure tucked away in the medieval market town's picturesque back streets. Bridge End Garden consists of seven, lovingly restored interlinked gardens, that showcase the Victorian taste for both formal and practical horticulture. The Grade II-listed garden is an ideal setting for visitors who want to enjoy a knot garden, and is also home to the world's largest hedge maze. It also reveals information on the 19th century diet through uncovered herb and vegetable plots. You can find out more here.
The Forgotten Gardens of Easton Lodge are a 'must' for romantics and keen gardeners alike. Originally built by Henry Maynard, the former Treasurer to Queen Elizabeth I, the mansion had a 'H' ground plan, typical of the era, until it was destroyed by fire in 1847. Ownership passed to Frances 'Daisy' Maynard in 1865, who built a gothic pile to replace it. Well known for her beauty, Daisy was courted by European aristocracy before eventually marrying Lord Brooke, the Earl of Warwick.
In 1902 she commissioned Harold Peto to redesign the grounds. Bringing his passion for Italian and French designs to Easton Lodge, the gardens were greatly feted and photographed. However, the site was requisitioned for the war effort by the War Office. It was transformed into an airfield, which saw thousands of trees felled or blown up to clear space for a runway and create a suitable base for bomber aircraft.
In the aftermath of the war, Greville Maynard demolished the house and bequeathed what remained of the estate to his daughter, Felice Spurrier, in 1960. Felice sold the remaining buildings on and the grounds subsequently passed to a number of individuals. In 1993 a small but enthusiastic group of volunteers worked to restore the gardens, and the subsequent years has seen the undertaking of painstaking work to restore Peto's gardens. While work is still underway, the areas that have been recovered offer stunning views. You can find out more here.
Copped Hall (right) is another house that suffered from fire and abandonment over the years. Enjoying a renaissance courtesy of volunteers, the Hall reflect its Tudor, Georgian and Victorian past, offering visitors a sense of the house's once majestic lawns, parkland and walled kitchen gardens, the produce of which can be purchased on site.
In 1594, Sir Thomas Heneage celebrated his marriage to the Countess of Southampton by commissioning Shakespeare to write a play. The resulting play. A Midsummer Night's Dream, was first performed at Copped Hall, after the wedding ceremony was held in London. To acknowledge this, a garden theatre has been built. Find out more here.
Southchurch Hall and Gardens (main image) sits nearby Southend's beaches and expansive waterfront. Originally built in the 1300s, the medieval moated manor house is a wonderfully preserved building with interies laid out in a series of period rooms. These include a great open hall that reflects life in the late Middle Ages, a Tudor kitchen with a magnificent fireplace, and a solar wing that displays rooms in late Tudor and Stuart styles. The surrounding five acres of park include ponds which are ideal for entertaining children with one of the most traditional pastimes, feeding ducks. You can find out more here.
Beth Chatto Gardens are a must visit for any enthusiastic gardeners who are looking for either inspiration of plants. Covering six acres, the beautiful gardens are now world famous, as Beth and her team used the space to transform what was once a wasteland into a visitor attraction. There are four principal gardens on site; scree, gravel, woodland and water, all of which come with lush leafy plantings of Gunnera, Eupatorium, Phormium and Miscanthus around a series of natural ponds. You can see more here.
Chelmsford will be holding it's heritage weekend from Thursday 8 September to Sunday 11 September, allowing visitors free entrance to events and properties that are usually either closed or charge for admission. Find out what you can visit here.