Woburn Abbey, occupying the east of the village of Woburn, Bedfordshire, is a country house, the family seat of the Duke of Bedford. Although it is still a family home to the current duke, it is open on specified days to visitors, along with the diverse estate surrounding it, including the historic landscape gardens and deer park (by Humphry Repton), as well as more recently added attractions including Woburn Safari Park, a miniature railway and a garden/visitor centre. Hugh de Bolebec founded Woburn Abbey, with monks from Fountains Abbey, as a Cistercian Abbey in 1145. In 1538 Abbot Robert Hobbes is executed for treason by Henry VIII (hung from a tree in the grounds of the abbey) and the Abbey is dissolved.
Sir John Russell was given Woburn Abbey by Edward VI in 1547, and in 1550, following instructions in the will of his father, Henry VIII, John was created 1st Earl of Bedford. In the 1620's Francis, 4th Earl, moved his family into Woburn Abbey. In the 1630s he built the two-storey north wing, with the grotto. Both are still part of the house today. King Charles I had previously twice visited Woburn as a welcomed guest but on his third visit, in 1647, he was the prisoner of Parliament and had a fateful meeting with Oliver Cromwell. In 1683 William, Lord Russell was executed for his involvement in the Rye House Plot. Posthumously pardoned by William III and Mary II, his father was granted the Dukedom of Bedford in 1694.
1731 : The future 4th Duke’s Grand Tour takes him to Venice where he commissions paintings by Canaletto as a souvenir. 1747 : The 4th Duke employs Henry Flitcroft to rebuild the West Wing, turning Woburn Abbey into a graceful Palladian house. 1763: The 4th Duke negotiates the Treaty of Paris, which ends the Seven Years’ War. Louis XV gifts a Sèvres porcelain service in appreciation. 1817: The Abbey Gardens is the site of the world’s first ecological experiments whose results later influence Darwin’s argument on the origin of the species. 1832: Lord John Russell is instrumental in the passing of the Reform Bill through parliament and twice becomes Prime Minister during Queen Victoria’s reign. 1840s : Afternoon Tea is said to have been popularised by Duchess Anna Maria, wife of the 7th Duke, who entertained her friends at Woburn Abbey. 1841: Royal visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Although the guest State Bedroom had been used for many visiting dignitaries it has since been called Queen Victoria’s Bedroom.
In 1914 Mary, wife of the 11th Duke, took on the role of administrator and nurse and turned Woburn Abbey into a military hospital during WWI. After several record breaking flights in previous years, Mary disappeared on a solo flight to Norfolk in 1937. In April 1786 John Adams (the future second President of the United States on tour with Thomas Jefferson—who would serve as his vice president before becoming President himself) visited Woburn Abbey and other notable houses in the area. After visiting them he wrote in his diary "Stowe, Hagley, and Blenheim, are superb; Woburn, Caversham, and the Leasowes are beautiful. Wotton is both great and elegant, though neglected". However in his diary he was also damning about the means used to finance the large estates, and he did not think that the embellishments to the landscape, made by the owners of the great country houses, would suit the more rugged American countryside.
Within Woburn Abbey there are five rooms that are located on the ground floor and are wheelchair accessible. In these rooms you will be able to experience Woburn’s unique example of a 17th-century interior Grotto - complete with a vaulted mother-of-pearl and shell ceiling - as well as our current exhibitions. There are beautiful family portraits to see along Paternoster Row, together with an ornate cane presented by Charles I and a sash worn by Lord William Russell during the Napoleonic Wars, complete with bullet hole. In the Book Room you will see illustrated botanical and zoological works and early 19th century political cartoons. Unfortunately, rooms on the first floor and underground levels do require the use of stairs for access and wheelchairs cannot be accommodated for health and safety reasons. Upstairs, seating is provided in many of the rooms for visitors who may need to take a break during their tour of the Abbey, or just wish to pause for a moment to enjoy the stunning decorative schemes and collections. A special concessionary rate for entry to Woburn Abbey and Gardens is available for Blue Badge holders. Discounts for visitors with disabilities visiting Woburn with a pre-booked group are also available. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Woburn Abbey and Gardens, Woburn, Bedfordshire MK17 9WA
Transport: Flitwick (National Rail) then bus. Bus Routes : no service.
Opening Times : Daily 11:00 to 17:00
Tickets Abbey + Gardens: Adults £16.00; Concessions £14.50; Children (3 - 15) £8.00
Tickets Gardens only: Adults £7.25; Concessions £6.25; Children (3 - 15) £4.50
Tel: 01525 290 333