‘Valiant Hearts: World War I – Woburn and its Stories’ is a new exhibition at Woburn Abbey marking the centenary of the outbreak of World War I. During World War I, the 11th Duke and Duchess were connected, on a daily basis, with the harsh realities of the war. Not only did they establish a training garrison and military hospital, but they also regularly corresponded with serving officers, politicians, soldiers and their families
Visitors to the exhibition will be able to follow the journey of a soldier from signing up, through training, to fighting on the front. We have focused on the experience of soldiers who trained at the Ampthill Training Depot, a facility that was established and supported by Herbrand, the 11th Duke of Bedford. The exhibition also illustrates the hospital that Duchess Mary set up in the grounds of Woburn Abbey – a hospital which became one of the most medically advanced for its time.
The initial idea for this exhibition came from archival research that was undertaken to help with a restoration project for the war memorial in Ampthill after the plaques were stolen. In total, 707 soldiers are honoured on this memorial and it is unusual as it is dedicated to the soldiers who were trained in the depot and subsequently lost their lives, rather than to those from a particular town or village. The original documents and objects that were discovered as part of this project will be displayed within the house itself. We will be sharing a number of these documents through this blog in the forthcoming months as well as telling other parts of the story during the centenary year.
Woburn Abbey Operations Manager