Image for History of the Deer Park A Muntjac Deer

The Origins of Deer At Woburn Abbey

The concept of the deer park was introduced to Britain by the Normans, and the earliest reference at Woburn dates back to 1661. In a survey, the 5th Earl of Bedford reserved the well-wooded deer park for his own use. From 1735 onwards there is evidence of Red and Fallow Deer around Woburn Abbey, but detailed records didn’t begin until 1802, under the 6th Duke. At his death in 1839, the inventory of the Deer Park gives a total of 1,200 Fallow Deer, valued at £1 each (£35 in today's money), and 45 Red Deer, valued at £5 each (£175 in today's money).

Over 42 Species of Deer

Very little changed until Herbrand Russell became 11th Duke of Bedford in 1893. He was keenly interested in zoology and president of the Royal Zoological Society. The 11th Duke collected over 42 species to add to the well established Red and Fallow. He was aided by his wife, Mary, who kept a register of animals from 1893-1914, noting births, deaths and purchases. Amongst the species introduced by the 11th Duke in 1894 were Chinese Water Deer and Reeves’ Muntjac deer. He was by no means the first to introduce the Muntjac to Britain, as the Zoological Society of London had these deer as early as 1838.

Most of the subspecies of Sika Deer have, at one time or another, been present in the park and were kept in separate paddocks to avoid interbreeding. The Manchurian, first introduced in 1894, proved the hardiest.  They were turned out into the open Deer Park and a herd of around 180 still remain today.  The smaller herd of Japanese Sika, introduced in 1893, eventually left the park in 1941, with the majority going to Whipsnade. 

The greatest zoological treasure in the Deer Park has been the Pére David Deer (Milu). Early in the twentieth century, when the species became extinct in its native China, the deer at Woburn Abbey remained the only breeding herd in the whole world. Find out more about our conservation work. The 12th Duke of Bedford had his own special herd of Fallow Deer which he fed every winter as a small child in the late 1890’s until he left home in 1914. The present population of Fallow Deer in the Deer Park is around 160.

Image for History of the Deer Park A Red Deer

Ordinary Red Deer have existed in Woburn Abbey Deer Park for centuries, but the 11th Duke introduced stags from Warnham Court, Exmoor and the Carpathians. These latter two species proved a failure, quickly falling victim to internal parasites. Caucasian Red deer throve well on grass and there was a fine herd in one of the large paddocks.

During World War II, Woburn was taken over by the Ministry of Defence.  Much of the park was devoted to rearing sheep and cattle and the deer population suffered.  The whole herd of 60 Caucasian Red deer and a small herd of Barbary Red Deer were destroyed during this time through lack of feed. However, the numbers of the surviving species picked up after the war and there are currently about 420 Red deer in Woburn Abbey Deer Park.

Events & Exhibitions

Image for Humphry Repton: Art & Nature for the Duke of Bedford

Humphry Repton: Art & Nature for the Duke of Bedford

to
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.
Image for Summer Holiday Children's Activities

Summer Holiday Children's Activities

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

National Afternoon Tea Week

to
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.
Image for Bat Walk

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.
Image for Bat Walk

Bat Walk

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

Life in a Noble Household

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

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.
Image for Terrarium Workshop

Terrarium Workshop

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

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.
Image for Woburn Abbey triathlon

Woburn Abbey triathlon

to
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.
Image for Woburn Abbey Honey Festival

Woburn Abbey Honey Festival

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

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.
Image for Adam Frost: Intro into Garden Design

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.
Image for NSPCC Luxury Gift Fair

NSPCC Luxury Gift Fair

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

Off Road Deer Park Tours

and
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.
Image for Treasury of Trees Walking Tour

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.
Image for Treasures of the Library & Afternoon Tea

Treasures of the Library & Afternoon Tea

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

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.
Image for Housekeeper's Know-how

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’
Image for Christmas Flowers with Jonathan Moseley

Christmas Flowers with Jonathan Moseley

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

Woburn Abbey Garden Show 2019

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