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

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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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Carriage Tours - June

An exciting experience back by popular demand, enjoy a tour in a private carriage around the grounds and gardens
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Teddy Bear Festival

Leading collectors, experts and the top names in the industry will be bringing along a fine selection of rare and famous teddy bears. There will be antique artist and modern bears for you to browse and buy.
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How to Run a Stately Home: Talk and Lunch

Join Simon Pestell, former Butler to The Duke and Duchess and now the Abbey’s Head Housekeeper, to find out ‘How to Run a Stately Home’.
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Flower Painting Study Day

Join us for a day of flower painting as we turn one of the rooms in the Historic North Court of Woburn Abbey into an art studio for the day.
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Woburn Abbey Garden Show 2018

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Now in its 9th year, the ‘Gardeners’ Garden Show’ has become an important diary date for gardening enthusiasts. Set in 42-acres of the Abbey’s beautifully landscaped gardens, the show offers unparalleled access to award-winning exhibitors and nurseries that have been handpicked by Woburn. The displays are complemented by an array of live entertainment, artisan foods, shopping, demonstrations, informative talks and gardening advice, tips and tours.
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VIP Garden Show package Saturday 23rd June

We invite you to enjoy a very special day out at the Woburn Abbey Garden Show with our exclusive Art and Horticulture package.
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VIP Garden Show package Sunday 24th June

We invite you to enjoy a very special day out at the Woburn Abbey Garden Show with our exclusive VIP packages.
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Rose Study Day

Studying and appreciation of roses with David Austin’s Rosarian Michael Marriott
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Twilight Parkland Tour - July

Experience the grounds of Woburn Abbey in a whole new light on this exclusive out-of-hours tour of the parkland and gardens.
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Carriage Tours - July

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An exciting experience back by popular demand, enjoy a tour in a private carriage around the grounds and gardens
Image for Open Air Theatre - The Tempest

Open Air Theatre - The Tempest

The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, the UK’s premier all male theatre company, invite you to join them this summer for Shakespeare’s spellbinding masterpiece, The Tempest.
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Bee Walk

Discover the importance of attracting bees to your garden and, more importantly, how to attract them.
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Twilight Parkland Tour

Experience the grounds of Woburn Abbey in a whole new light on this exclusive out-of-hours tour of the parkland and gardens.
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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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Buterfly and Bugs Walk

Discover the beautiful butterflies to be found in the Abbey Gardens and find out how you can attract more species to your own garden, during this guided walk.
Image for VIP Picnic Carriage Tour in Woburn Abbey Deer Park

VIP Picnic Carriage Tour in Woburn Abbey Deer Park

Experience a picnic like no other - in The Bedford Estate’s private traditional wagonette drawn by a team of four magnificent horses.
Image for Twilight Parkland Tour - August

Twilight Parkland Tour - August

Experience the grounds of Woburn Abbey in a whole new light on this exclusive out-of-hours tour of the parkland and gardens.
Image for Carriage Tours - August

Carriage Tours - August

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An exciting experience back by popular demand, enjoy a tour in a private carriage around the grounds and gardens
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Bat Walks

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

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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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.
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.
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tri for life triathlon

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tri for life presents The Woburn Abbey Triathlon. One of the UK’s most loved triathlons, it has become famed for its iconic venue and unrivalled family experience.
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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.
Image for Adam Frost: Intro into Garden Design

Adam Frost: Intro into Garden Design

Have you ever wondered how to approach designing your own garden, what you need to know to be a garden designer or the skills involved?
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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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.
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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? Join us as we begin our annual ‘deep-clean’ to find out more.
Image for Christmas Flowers with Jonathan Moseley

Christmas Flowers with Jonathan Moseley

A masterclass in Christmas flower-arranging with floral expert, Jonathan Moseley.