Shaping The Abbey

Woburn Abbey, as it can be seen today, has been shaped by a number of architects, each of whom was a leading designer of their day. Henry Flitcroft, Sir William Chambers, Henry Holland and Sir Jeffry Wyatville are amongst the most notable examples.


Image for Architecture The Grand Staircase

Henry Flitcroft (1697-1769)

Flitcroft was commissioned in 1747 by the 4th Duke to rebuild the entire West range of Woburn Abbey.  He designed the impressive suite of State Apartments which run the length of the West front in the Palladian style. Flitcroft also designed the impressive Grand staircase which is cantilevered from the walls and has a beautiful wrought iron balustrade. To increase the sense of height, Flitcroft cleverly narrowed the staircase towards the top to become a single lane flight of stairs.

Henry Flitcroft is responsible for the two Stable blocks in the grounds, known as North Court and South Court. Built around 1750, the west flanks of both Courts are topped by impressive octagonal drums and domes. 


Sir William Chambers (1723 -1796)

Swedish born Chambers became one of the most influential early neo-classical architects of his time.  He specialised in the popular Palladian style, but enhanced his designs with French, Italian and Oriental styles. He was employed by the 4th Duke to make various alterations to the Abbey and was responsible for Chambers Bridge. The bridge separates Basin Pond from New Pond and was constructed around 1770 with three semi-circular arches.  This is the bridge you cross as you drive through the deer park on your way up to the house.


Image for Architecture A Chimney Piece Designed by Henry Holland

Henry Holland (1745-1806)

Henry Holland began his architectural career as his father’s assistant, and developed a close connection with Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown. Through this association with Brown, Holland was introduced to some of the grandest families in the country, from whom he soon received commissions.

Holland was commissioned by the 5th Duke to modernise Woburn Abbey. He redesigned the South front, building a sophisticated three part library, divided by screens of columns. Holland also designed and built the Chinese Dairy in the gardens, as well as the large indoor riding school and tennis court located behind Flitcroft’s two Stable Courts. This latter structure was demolished in the 1950s due to dry rot.

Image for Architecture Bust of Henry Holland

Henry Holland was still at Woburn in 1789 building a conservatory complete with an impressive Venetian window. The conservatory was linked to the Abbey via a covered walkway which extended round to the new riding school and onwards to the Chinese Dairy. The Duke later changed this building to become a sculpture gallery, housing busts of his favourite political heroes; and commissioned Holland to build the Temple of Liberty within it in 1801.

Unfortunately, the young Duke suddenly died in 1802, and it was his brother John, the 6th Duke, who completed the works.


Image for Architecture The Sculpture Gallery

Sir Jeffry Wyatville (1766-1840)

Wyattville became the Duke’s architect in 1806, and was commissioned to design and build Endsleigh, a cottage orné, in Devon. According to an inscription in the stables, Endsleigh ‘was built and a residence created in the sequestered valley by John, Duke of Bedford, the spot having been previously chosen for the natural and picturesque beauties which surround it by Georgiana, Duchess of Bedford...’  The foundation stone was laid by their four eldest sons on September 7th 1810.  The interiors were entirely decorated and furnished by Wyatville; the landscaping carried out by Humphry Repton.

The 6th Duke also commissioned Wyatville to adapt Holland’s conservatory in 1816 to make it into a more impressive setting for his increasing sculpture collection.  Wyatville designed the Temple of the Graces, in preparation for Canova’s sculpture The Three Graces (now in the collection of the V&A and NGS).  The central bay has eight magnificent antique columns, brought back from Rome by the 5th Duke, and installed by Wyatville to support his shallow dome.  In 1822 he constructed the Camellia House which adjoins the East End of the Sculpture Gallery.

Events & Exhibitions

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Humphry Repton: Art & Nature for the Duke of Bedford

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Open to the public between 23rd March and 28th October 2018, the new exhibition explores the fascinating relationship between Repton and one of his greatest clients.
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Summer Holiday Children's Activities

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There's plenty to keep younger visitors entertained at Woburn Abbey during the summer holidays, two trails, crafts and games!
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National Afternoon Tea Week

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Renowned speaker Gillian Perry will talk you through the social history of Afternoon Tea. This English custom was popularised by the 7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna Maria at Woburn Abbey.
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Bat Walk

Take an exclusive tour of the Woburn Abbey Gardens at night and learn about the nocturnal activities of the bats living in the gardens.
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Bat Walk

This event has now sold out but we have more dates available.
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Life in a Noble Household

Discover what it was like to work in a great Ducal household from the 17th to the 20th centuries.
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Bat Walk

Take an exclusive tour of the Woburn Abbey Gardens at night and learn about the nocturnal activities of the bats living in the gardens.
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Terrarium Workshop

Bedford Estates Head Gardener, Tom Abbott will show you how to create a terrarium which you will then get to take home.
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Bat Walk

Take an exclusive tour of the Woburn Abbey Gardens at night and learn about the nocturnal activities of the bats living in the gardens.
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Woburn Abbey triathlon

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Now in its eleventh year, the Woburn Abbey Triathlon - organised by registered charity tri for life, and delivery partner, Human Race events - has raised over £2.4m for its charity partners.
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Woburn Abbey Honey Festival

Join us in a celebration of everything honey, set against the stunning backdrop of Woburn Abbey and Gardens.
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Dining Like A Duke

From the earliest times, the consumption of food has evolved from the basic requirements to survive into one of the grandest expressions of wealth and style.
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Adam Frost: Intro into Garden Design

This event has now sold out - please check back at a later date as we are planning similar events to this in the future.
Image for NSPCC Luxury Gift Fair Evening Champagne Reception

NSPCC Luxury Gift Fair Evening Champagne Reception

This exclusive Evening Champagne Reception will be hosted by Her Grace, The Duchess of Bedford. Browse over 50 stalls of inspiring gift ideas whilst enjoying a glass of Champagne and canapés. All proceeds from the event tickets will go to the NSPCC.
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NSPCC Luxury Gift Fair

The NSPCC Luxury Gift Fair is an annual event and a highlight of the Woburn calendar.
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Off Road Deer Park Tours

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Join the Deer Keepers for a 1.5 hour tour of the Woburn Abbey Deer Park where you will able to get up close to the beautiful deer.
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Treasury of Trees Walking Tour

Join us for a guided walk in our Quercetum and Pinetum areas of the gardens to discover our treasury of trees.
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Treasures of the Library & Afternoon Tea

Enjoy a private view of some of the treasures housed within Woburn Abbey’s extensive library collection.
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Brunch with Queen Victoria

Follow in the footsteps of the Queen and her 1841 visit to Woburn Abbey. Enjoy a delicious lunch in the Duchess' Tearoom followed by an in-depth talk with time to explore the Abbey at your leisure.
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Housekeeper's Know-how

Ever wondered what it takes to preserve and care for a great stately home and its treasures? While we’re closed for the winter, our housekeeping team invites you behind-the-scenes for an exclusive glimpse into what it takes to complete Woburn Abbey’s annual ‘deep-clean’
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Christmas Flowers with Jonathan Moseley

A masterclass in Christmas flower-arranging with floral expert, Jonathan Moseley.
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Woburn Abbey Garden Show 2019

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Early Bird rates can now be booked on-line for the Gardeners' Garden Show.