Image for 24 Canaletto Paintings One of the views of Venice by Canaletto

The largest private collection of Venetian Views by Canaletto on Public View

Lord John Russell (who became 4th Duke of Bedford in 1732) visited Venice while on his Grand Tour in 1731. He was with his younger sister, Elizabeth, Countess of Essex and her husband, William Capel, 3rd Earl of Essex. It is thought that Lord John met with Joseph Smith, Canaletto’s agent, and the paintings were subsequently commissioned. It was fashionable to order a set of views of the places visited on the Grand Tour as a souvenir of your visit.

24 paintings eventually arrived in England; and within the Abbey Archives we have three bills to Joseph Smith, dated 1733, 1735 and 1736, and totalling just over £188 (about £16,000 today). 

Image for 24 Canaletto Paintings The Dining Room

The Dining Room

Woburn Abbey houses the largest private collection of views of Venice by Canaletto, and 21 of the 24 paintings are displayed in the Dining Room. 

The pictures were first hung in Bedford House in London, until the house was demolished in 1800. Francis, 5th Duke of Bedford, had the West-facing windows in the Dining Room blocked in to enable all of the Canaletto paintings to be hung in one room and during the nineteenth century it was called the Venetian Drawing Room.

When, in 1955, the house was opened to the public, the 13th Duke had the West-facing windows unblocked to open up the view once more. Accordingly several of the pictures had to be moved. One of the large ones, Regatta on the Grand Canal, is now in the Blue Drawing Room, and two of the smaller ones are hanging over the doors in the Breakfast Room. 

Events & Exhibitions

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VIP Carriage Tour and Alfresco Dining Experience

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Celebrate your special occasion with a Woburn Carriage Tour and your choice of brunch, lunch or Duchess Anna Maria Afternoon Tea in the Park.
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Humphry Repton: Art & Nature for the Duke of Bedford

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Open to the public between 5th April and 1st September 2019, this exhibition explores the fascinating relationship between Repton and one of his greatest clients.
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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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Carriage Tours

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An exciting experience back by popular demand, enjoy a tour in a private carriage around the grounds and gardens of Woburn Abbey.
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Two Centuries of Afternoon Tea at Woburn Abbey

Join us at the home of afternoon tea for this fascinating illustrated talk, with full afternoon tea included, which covers how tea drinking was first introduced into England, how it was popularised and how afternoon tea became a social institution.
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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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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.
Image for Carriage Tours

Carriage Tours

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An exciting experience back by popular demand, enjoy a tour in a private carriage around the grounds and gardens of Woburn Abbey.
Image for Two Centuries of Afternoon Tea at Woburn Abbey

Two Centuries of Afternoon Tea at Woburn Abbey

Join us at the home of afternoon tea for this fascinating illustrated talk, with full afternoon tea included, which covers how tea drinking was first introduced into England, how it was popularised and how afternoon tea became a social institution.
Image for Bat Walk

Bat Walk

Take an exclusive evening tour and learn all about the species of bats living in Woburn Abbey Gardens. Then, using bat detectors, you will learn to listen and identify the echo location signals bats use to navigate and hunt.
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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.
Image for NSPCC Luxury Gift Fair Evening Champagne Shopping Event

NSPCC Luxury Gift Fair Evening Champagne Shopping Event

This exclusive evening Champagne shopping event 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.
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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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Woburn Abbey Garden Show 2020

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Set against the stunning backdrop of Woburn Abbey and within 42 acres of Abbey Gardens, "The Gardener’s Garden Show" offers one of the best locations of any show in the UK.