Woburn Abbey
Woburn Abbey near Woburn
Woburn, Bedfordshire
Woburn is a small Saxon village and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England. It is situated about southeast of the centre of Milton Keynes, and about south of junction 13 of the M1 motorway and is a popular tourist attraction.-History:...

, Bedfordshire
Bedfordshire is a ceremonial county of historic origin in England that forms part of the East of England region.It borders Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the south-east....

, England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, is a country house
English country house
The English country house is a large house or mansion in the English countryside. Such houses were often owned by individuals who also owned a London house. This allowed to them to spend time in the country and in the city—hence, for these people, the term distinguished between town and country...

, the seat of the Duke of Bedford
Duke of Bedford
thumb|right|240px|William Russell, 1st Duke of BedfordDuke of Bedford is a title that has been created five times in the Peerage of England. The first creation came in 1414 in favour of Henry IV's third son, John, who later served as regent of France. He was made Earl of Kendal at the same time...

 and the location of the Woburn Safari Park
Woburn Safari Park
Woburn Safari Park is a safari park located in Woburn, Bedfordshire in the UK. Visitors to the park can drive through the large animal exhibits, which contain species such as White Rhino, Elephants, Tigers and Black Bears...


Pre-20th century

Woburn Abbey, comprising Woburn Park and its buildings, was originally founded as a Cistercian abbey
An abbey is a Catholic monastery or convent, under the authority of an Abbot or an Abbess, who serves as the spiritual father or mother of the community.The term can also refer to an establishment which has long ceased to function as an abbey,...

 in 1145. Taken from its monastic residents by Henry VIII
Henry VIII of England
Henry VIII was King of England from 21 April 1509 until his death. He was Lord, and later King, of Ireland, as well as continuing the nominal claim by the English monarchs to the Kingdom of France...

 and given to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford
John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford
John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford, KG, PC, JP was an English royal minister in the Tudor era. He served variously as Lord High Admiral and Lord Privy Seal....

 in 1547, it became the seat of the Russell Family and the Dukes of Bedford
Duke of Bedford
thumb|right|240px|William Russell, 1st Duke of BedfordDuke of Bedford is a title that has been created five times in the Peerage of England. The first creation came in 1414 in favour of Henry IV's third son, John, who later served as regent of France. He was made Earl of Kendal at the same time...

. The Abbey was largely rebuilt starting in 1744 by the architects Henry Flitcroft
Henry Flitcroft
Henry Flitcroft was a major English architect in the second generation of Palladianism. He came from a simple background: his father was a labourer in the gardens at Hampton Court and he began as a joiner by trade. Working as a carpenter at Burlington House, he fell from a scaffold and broke his leg...

 and Henry Holland
Henry Holland (architect)
Henry Holland was an architect to the English nobility. Born in Fulham, London, his father also Henry ran a building firm and he built several of Capability Brown's buildings, although Henry would have learnt a lot from his father about the practicalities of construction it was under Brown that he...

 for the 4th Duke
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford
John Russell, 4th Duke of Bedford KG, PC, FRS was an 18th century British statesman. He was the fourth son of Wriothesley Russell, 2nd Duke of Bedford, by his wife, Elizabeth, daughter and heiress of John Howland of Streatham, Surrey...

. Anna Maria
Anna Russell, Duchess of Bedford
Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, whom she served as a Lady of the Bedchamber between 1837 and 1841. She was also the originator of the British meal "afternoon tea."Anna was the daughter of Charles Stanhope, 3rd Earl of Harrington...

, the wife of the 7th Duke
Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford
Francis Russell, 7th Duke of Bedford KG, PC , styled Marquess of Tavistock from 1802 to 1839, was a British peer and Whig politician.-Background and education:...

, originated the afternoon tea ritual in 19th-century England.

1945 to 1970s

Following World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, dry rot
Dry rot
Dry rot refers to a type of wood decay caused by certain types of fungi, also known as True Dry Rot, that digests parts of the wood which give the wood strength and stiffness...

 was discovered and half the Abbey was subsequently demolished. When the 12th Duke died in 1953, his son the 13th Duke was exposed to heavy death duties and the Abbey was a half-demolished, half-derelict house. Instead of handing the family estates over to the National Trust
National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty
The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, usually known as the National Trust, is a conservation organisation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland...

, he kept ownership and opened the Abbey to the public for the first time in 1955. It soon gained in popularity as other amusements were added, including Woburn Safari Park
Woburn Safari Park
Woburn Safari Park is a safari park located in Woburn, Bedfordshire in the UK. Visitors to the park can drive through the large animal exhibits, which contain species such as White Rhino, Elephants, Tigers and Black Bears...

 on the grounds of the Abbey in 1970. Asked about the unfavourable comments by other aristocrats when he turned the family home into a safari park, the 13th Duke said, "I do not relish the scorn of the peerage, but it is better to be looked down on than overlooked."

1970s to Present

The 13th Duke moved to Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo
Monte Carlo is an administrative area of the Principality of Monaco....

 in 1975. His son Robin
Robin Russell, 14th Duke of Bedford
Henry Robin Ian Russell, 14th Duke of Bedford, DL was a British peer. He became better known to the public than most of his ancestors by appearing in three series of the reality television programme Country House, made by Tiger Aspect Productions for BBC Two, which in turn inspired Monarch of the...

, who enjoyed the courtesy title Marquess of Tavistock, ran the Abbey with his wife in his father's absence.

In 1970, Lucio Fulci
Lucio Fulci
Lucio Fulci was an Italian film director, screenwriter, and actor. He is perhaps best known for his directorial work on gore films, including Zombie and The Beyond , although he made films in genres as diverse as giallo, western, and comedy...

 filmed scenes for A Lizard in a Woman's Skin
A Lizard in a Woman's Skin
Lizard in a Woman's Skin is a 1971 Italian giallo film directed by Lucio Fulci. It was released in 1971. The film follows the daughter of a respected politician by the name of Carol Hammond , who experiences a series of vivid, psychedelic nightmares consisting of depraved sex orgies and LSD...

there. In May 1973, scenes from Coronation Street
Coronation Street
Coronation Street is a British soap opera set in Weatherfield, a fictional town in Greater Manchester based on Salford. Created by Tony Warren, Coronation Street was first broadcast on 9 December 1960...

were set there and featured a cameo by the 13th Duke. He played himself greeting the characters: one of them, Hilda Ogden
Hilda Ogden
Hilda Alice Ogden is a fictional character from the television series Coronation Street, one of the best-known of all the regular characters in the soap opera, whose name became synonymous with a certain type of working-class woman...

, was very impressed with the 'Canney-Letty' [sic] (Canaletto
Giovanni Antonio Canal better known as Canaletto , was a Venetian painter famous for his landscapes, or vedute, of Venice. He was also an important printmaker in etching.- Early career :...

) room.

In the early 1990s, the Marquess and The Tussauds Group
The Tussauds Group
The Tussauds Group is now part of Merlin Entertainments, the world's second largest leisure group, second only to Disney. It is based in Poole, Dorset from where it manages a portfolio of brands and over 50 attractions including the famous Madame Tussauds waxworks, Legoland Parks, Sealife Centres,...

 planned to turn the Abbey into a large theme park with the help of John Wardley
John Wardley
John Wardley is a British award-winning concept designer and developer for theme parks, mainly for rides such as roller coasters.-Rides Designed By John:*Nemesis*Oblivion*Air*Thirteen *Haunted House*Runaway Mine Train...

, creator of the roller coaster
Roller coaster
The roller coaster is a popular amusement ride developed for amusement parks and modern theme parks. LaMarcus Adna Thompson patented the first coasters on January 20, 1885...

s "Nemesis
Nemesis (roller coaster)
Nemesis is Europe's first inverted roller coaster located at Alton Towers, England. The ride's concept was created by John Wardley. It is manufactured by Bolliger & Mabillard and opened in 1994...

" and "Oblivion
Oblivion (roller coaster)
Oblivion is a steel roller coaster located at Alton Towers in England. The ride opened as the world's first vertical drop roller coaster in March 1998 amidst a large publicity campaign. The ride has a height restriction of 1.4 metres...

". However, Tussauds bought Alton Towers
Alton Towers
Alton Towers is a theme park and resort located in Staffordshire, England. It attracts around 2.7 million visitors per year making it the most visited theme park in the United Kingdom. Alton Towers is also the 9th most visited theme park in Europe...

 and built one there instead.

From 1999 to 2002, the Marquess and the Marchioness, the former Henrietta Joan Tiarks, were the subjects of the Tiger Aspect Productions
Tiger Aspect Productions
Tiger Aspect Productions is a British television production company, particularly noted for its situation comedies. Co-founded by producer Peter Bennett-Jones, its productions have included popular hits such as The Vicar of Dibley and Mr. Bean...

 reality series Country House in three series, totalling 29 episodes, which aired on BBC Two
BBC Two is the second television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more 'highbrow' programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio...

. It detailed the daily life and the business of running the Abbey. It inspired several Monarch of the Glen storylines.

The Marquess of Tavistock became the 14th Duke on the death of his father in November 2002 in Santa Fe
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe is the capital of the U.S. state of New Mexico. It is the fourth-largest city in the state and is the seat of . Santa Fe had a population of 67,947 in the 2010 census...

, New Mexico
New Mexico
New Mexico is a state located in the southwest and western regions of the United States. New Mexico is also usually considered one of the Mountain States. With a population density of 16 per square mile, New Mexico is the sixth-most sparsely inhabited U.S...

, United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. The 14th Duke was the briefest holder of the Dukedom and died in June 2003.

On the death of the 14th Duke, his son Andrew
Andrew Russell, 15th Duke of Bedford
Andrew Ian Henry Russell, 15th Duke of Bedford , is the son of Henry Robin Ian Russell, 14th Duke of Bedford and his wife, Henrietta Joan Tiarks.-Biography:...

 became the 15th Duke, and he continues his father's work in running the Woburn Abbey Estate.


The art collection of the Duke of Bedford
Duke of Bedford
thumb|right|240px|William Russell, 1st Duke of BedfordDuke of Bedford is a title that has been created five times in the Peerage of England. The first creation came in 1414 in favour of Henry IV's third son, John, who later served as regent of France. He was made Earl of Kendal at the same time...

, is amongst the finest in private hands, and encompasses a wide range of western artwork. The holdings, comprise some 250 paintings, including works by Rubens, Van Dyck, Canaletto and Velasquez. Moreover, the collection encompasses a superlative range of furniture, both French and English, porcelain and silverwork.


Dutch School
  • Asselyn, Jan - 1 painting
  • Cuyp, Aelbert Jacobsz - 5 paintings
  • Delen, Dirk van - 1 painting
  • Flinck, Govert
    Govert Flinck
    Govert Teuniszoon Flinck was a Dutch painter of the Dutch Golden Age.-Life:Born at Kleve, he was apprenticed by his father to a silk mercer, but having secretly acquired a passion for drawing, was sent to Leeuwarden, where he boarded in the house of Lambert Jacobszoon, a Mennonite, better known...

     - 1 painting
  • Goyen, Jan van - 1 painting
  • Potter, Paulus
    Paulus Potter
    Paulus Potter was a Dutch painter, specialized in animals in landscapes, usually with a low point of view. Before Potter died of tuberculosis, 28-years old, he succeeded in producing about a hundred paintings, working continuously.-Life:Few details are known of Potter's life...

     - 2 paintings (A Hawking Party, 1653)
  • Rembrandt, Harmenszoon van Rijn - 1 painting (Self-portrait, 1640)
  • Ruisdael, Jacob van - 2 paintings
  • Steen, Jan
    Jan Steen
    Jan Havickszoon Steen was a Dutch genre painter of the 17th century . Psychological insight, sense of humour and abundance of colour are marks of his trade.-Life:...

     - 2 paintings
  • Velde, Willem van de Velde (the Younger)
    Willem van de Velde the Younger
    Willem van de Velde the Younger was a Dutch marine painter.-Biography:Willem van de Velde was baptised on 18 December 1633 in Leiden, Holland, Dutch Republic....

     - 1 painting
  • Werff, Adrian van der - 1 painting

English School
  • Gainsborough, Thomas
    Thomas Gainsborough
    Thomas Gainsborough was an English portrait and landscape painter.-Suffolk:Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury, Suffolk. He was the youngest son of John Gainsborough, a weaver and maker of woolen goods. At the age of thirteen he impressed his father with his penciling skills so that he let...

     - 1 painting
  • Gheeraerts, Marcus (the Younger)
    Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger
    Marcus Gheeraerts was an artist of the Tudor court, described as "the most important artist of quality to work in England in large-scale between Eworth and Van Dyck" He was brought to England as a child by his father Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, also a painter...

     - 2 paintings
  • Hayter, Sir George - 4 paintings
  • Hoppner, John - 2 paintings
  • Knapton, George - 1 painting
  • Landseer, Edwin Henry
    Edwin Henry Landseer
    Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, RA was an English painter, well known for his paintings of animals—particularly horses, dogs and stags...

     - 2 paintings
  • Reynolds, Joshua
    Joshua Reynolds
    Sir Joshua Reynolds RA FRS FRSA was an influential 18th-century English painter, specialising in portraits and promoting the "Grand Style" in painting which depended on idealization of the imperfect. He was one of the founders and first President of the Royal Academy...

     - 4 paintings
  • George Gower
    George Gower
    George Gower was an English portrait painter who became Serjeant Painter to Queen Elizabeth I in 1581.-Life:Little is known about his early life except that he was a grandson of Sir John Gower of Stettenham, Yorkshire....

     - (The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I
    Armada Portrait
    The Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I of England is the name of any of three surviving versions of an allegorical panel painting depicting the Tudor queen surrounded by symbols of imperial majesty against a backdrop representing the defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588.-Imagery:The combination of a...

    , 1588?, one of the greatest English portraits in existence)

Flemish School
  • Critz, John de
    John de Critz
    John de Critz or John Decritz was one of a number of painters of Flemish and Dutch origin active at the English royal court during the reigns of James I of England and Charles I of England...

     - 1 painting
  • Dyck, Anthony van
    Anthony van Dyck
    Sir Anthony van Dyck was a Flemish Baroque artist who became the leading court painter in England. He is most famous for his portraits of Charles I of England and his family and court, painted with a relaxed elegance that was to be the dominant influence on English portrait-painting for the next...

     - 4 paintings (Aubert Lemire, Dean of Antwerp, c. 1630)
  • Eworth, Hans
    Hans Eworth
    Hans Eworth was a Flemish painter active in England in the mid-16th century. Along with other exiled Flemings, he made a career in Tudor London, painting allegorical images as well as portraits of the gentry and nobility. About 40 paintings are now attributed to Eworth, among them portraits of...

     - 1 painting

French School
  • Bercham, Nicholas - 1 painting
  • Lorrain, Claude (known as Claude Gellée)
    Claude Lorrain
    Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English (also Claude Gellée, his real name, or in French Claude Gellée, , dit le Lorrain) Claude Lorrain, , traditionally just Claude in English (also Claude Gellée, his real name, or in French...

     - 2 paintings
  • Lefebvre, Claude
    Claude Lefebvre (artist)
    Claude Lefebvre was a French painter and engraver.-Early life:Lefebvre was born at Fontainebleau. He studied art under Eustache Le Sueur and Charles Le Brun at Fontainebleau.-Career:...

     - 1 painting
  • Loo, Carl van
    Charles-André van Loo
    Carle or Charles-André van Loo was a French subject painter, and a younger brother of Jean-Baptiste van Loo and grandson of Jacob van Loo. He was the most famous member of a successful dynasty of painters of Dutch origin...

     - 1 painting (Portrait of Louis XV)
  • Poussin, Nicolas
    Nicolas Poussin
    Nicolas Poussin was a French painter in the classical style. His work predominantly features clarity, logic, and order, and favors line over color. His work serves as an alternative to the dominant Baroque style of the 17th century...

     - 2 paintings
  • Vernet, Claude Joseph - 2 paintings

German School
  • Holbein, Hans (the Younger)
    Hans Holbein the Younger
    Hans Holbein the Younger was a German artist and printmaker who worked in a Northern Renaissance style. He is best known as one of the greatest portraitists of the 16th century. He also produced religious art, satire and Reformation propaganda, and made a significant contribution to the history...

     - 1 painting

Italian School
  • Batoni, Pompeo
    Pompeo Batoni
    Pompeo Girolamo Batoni was an Italian painter whose style incorporated elements of the French Rococo, Bolognese classicism, and nascent Neoclassicism.-Biography:He was born in Lucca, the son of a goldsmith, Paolino Batoni...

     - 1 painting
  • Canaletto
    Giovanni Antonio Canal better known as Canaletto , was a Venetian painter famous for his landscapes, or vedute, of Venice. He was also an important printmaker in etching.- Early career :...

     - 24 paintings (View of the Entrance to the Venetian Arsenal, c. 1732 - one of Canaletto's greatest works)
  • Ricci, Sebastiano - 1 painting
  • Salvi, Giovanni (Il Sassaferrato) - 2 paintings

Spanish School
  • Murillo, Bartolomé Esteban
    Bartolomé Estéban Murillo
    Bartolomé Esteban Murillo was a Spanish Baroque painter. Although he is best known for his religious works, Murillo also produced a considerable number of paintings of contemporary women and children...

     - 1 painting
  • Velasquez, Diego - 1 painting (Portrait of Admiral Pulido Peraja, Captain General of the Armada Fleet of New Spain)

Books, films and television

In Anthony Horowitz's
Anthony Horowitz
Anthony Craig Horowitz is an English novelist and screenwriter. He has written many children's novels, including The Power of Five, Alex Rider and The Diamond Brothers series and has written over fifty books. He has also written extensively for television, adapting many of Agatha Christie's...

 1987 book Public Enemy Number Two
Public Enemy Number Two
Public Enemy No.2 is a novel written by Anthony Horowitz, the second in the Diamond Brothers series. The main character in the book is Nick Diamond, His older brother Herbert Simple - who goes by the name Tim Diamond - is an unsuccessful private detective. The novel is particularly known for its...

, the book's main character Nick Diamond is framed for the theft of the Woburn Carbuncles as part of a plan by two Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard
Scotland Yard is a metonym for the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service of London, UK. It derives from the location of the original Metropolitan Police headquarters at 4 Whitehall Place, which had a rear entrance on a street called Great Scotland Yard. The Scotland Yard entrance became...

 detectives to imprison him in order to find out the identity of a criminal mastermind known as The Fence—who ironically turns out to be the class teacher who was supervising Diamond and the other children on the school trip to Woburn Abbey.

In film and television, Woburn Abbey has been used as a filming location for films and programs including The Iron Maiden (1962), The Flower of Gloster (1967) and Treasure Hunt
Treasure hunt
A treasure hunt is one of many different types of games which can have one or more players who try to find hidden articles, locations or places by using a series of clues. This is a fictional activity; treasure hunting can also be a real life activity. Treasure hunt games may be an indoor or...


In The Protector's War
The Protector's War
The Protector's War is a 2005 alternate history, post-apocalyptic, science fiction novel written by S.M. Stirling and is the second novel in the Emberverse series. The Protector's War describes the events of roughly a year, some eight years after the Change which altered the laws of physics in...

, a post-apocalyptic alternate history novel by S. M. Stirling
S. M. Stirling
Stephen Michael Stirling is a French-born Canadian-American science fiction and fantasy author. Stirling is probably best known for his Draka series of alternate history novels and the more recent time travel/alternate history Nantucket series and Emberverse series.-Personal:Stirling was born on...

, Woburn Abbey serves as a prison for an English knight; the knight is rescued and flees to the Willamette Valley of Oregon in what was the United States of America.

See also

  • List of monastic houses in Bedfordshire
  • Woburn Place
    Woburn Place
    Woburn Place is a street in central London, England, named after Woburn Abbey. It is located in the Bloomsbury area of Camden.To the north-west is Tavistock Square and to the south-east is Russell Square. Past Tavistock Square the road becomes Upper Woburn Place until the junction with Euston Road...

     and Woburn Square
    Woburn Square
    Woburn Square is the smallest of the Bloomsbury Squares and owned by the University of London. Designed by Thomas Cubitt and built between 1829 and 1847, it is named after Woburn Abbey, the main country seat of the Dukes of Bedford, who developed much of Bloomsbury.The original construction was of...

     in London
    London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

External links

  • Official website
  • The Woburn Abbey Collection of Classical Antiquities in the Arachne (Archaeological Database)
    Arachne (Archaeological Database)
    Arachne is the central object-database of the German Archaeological Institute . In 2004 the DAI and the Cologne Digital Archaeology Laboratory at the University of Cologne joined the effort to support Arachne as a tool for free internet-based research.-Definition:Arachne's database design uses a...

  • http://www.mspong.org/picturesque/woburn_abbey.html
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