It’s not quite Downton Abbey, but volunteers are needed for a real life period drama at Audley End House & Gardens

PUBLISHED: 12:55 19 January 2014

Lynsey Coombs, general manager Audley End House & Gardens, and Pat Lodge from the Uttlesford Volunteer Centre.

Lynsey Coombs, general manager Audley End House & Gardens, and Pat Lodge from the Uttlesford Volunteer Centre.

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Volunteers are needed to help bring the magic of Audley End House to life.

Watercolour painting of Audley End's nursery room.Watercolour painting of Audley End's nursery room.

This spring, Uttlesford’s real life period drama attraction is to re-open following the completion of a £1.1million renovation project aimed at enhancing the visitor experience.

Areas never before seen by the public, the Nursery Suite and Coal Gallery, are set to be unveiled in April and volunteers are wanted to offer visitors information and encourage them to explore Audley End’s “fascinating past”.

Described by organisers as “an exciting opportunity to be the face of one of the region’s most outstanding stately homes”, the search for around 50 helpers is part of a joint initiative by Volunteer Centre Uttlesford and English Heritage.

Volunteers with a keen interest in history and a friendly, welcoming attitude are needed from 11am to 5pm on any day between April and October.

Watercolour painting of Audley End's coal room.Watercolour painting of Audley End's coal room.

Lynsey Coombs, general manager at Audley End House & Gardens, told the Reporter: “It is a great chance for many people in the community to get involved and it will be great for us to work with the public.

“Volunteers will be talking to people around the house, encouraging them to try things on, play games, jump on the bed. This project is really about stepping away for the normal stately home experience of you can look but don’t touch.”

The multi-million pound venture will also introduce fresh interpretation in other areas of the popular stately home.

Downton Abbey fans and the like will be able to step back into the 1830s and 40s and explore life in the nursery for the eight Braybrooke children from the ages of four or five – a time when aristocratic children were rarely seen or heard by their parents.

The suite of rooms in which they spent much of their young lives – sleeping, doing schoolwork, reading and playing with toys – will give an insight into the somewhat sheltered lives of the children.

The five brothers – Richard, Charles, Henry, Latimer and Grey – grew up there until they went to Eton at the age of 11 or 12, and their three sisters Mirabel, Louisa and Lucy, remained at home in the charge of governess Mary Dormer until their education was considered complete at 17 or 18.

Created as a nursery in 1822, the rooms still retain some original features from cupboards and closets, to fireplaces and a dolls house that can be seen in the children’s watercolours of the 1840s and will feature prominently in the new displays, as well as opportunities to interact and engage with the rooms.

Another previously unseen part of the house is also opening – the Coal Gallery. Retaining many of its 19th century features, the room will be dressed to demonstrate its important role in supplying coal and hot water to the upper floors of the house.

• To volunteer at Audley End, call Volunteer Centre Uttlesford on 01799 513626, e-mail uttlesford_vb@yahoo.co.uk or visit volunteercentreuttlesford.org.uk

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