Sharing Woburn's Treasures

Woburn Abbey is currently undergoing its biggest refurbishment since it first opened to the public.

During the closure, the fabulous art collections will be conserved further, so that they are preserved for future generations, and renewed interpretation of the fascinating stories associated with them will be facilitated.

Renovations of the historic family home also provide the opportunity for The Duke and Duchess of Bedford to share some of Woburn’s Treasures with a wider audience so that they can continue to be enjoyed in a different context with new narratives.

Artworks, some of which have not left the Abbey for centuries, are being loaned to a range of galleries, museums and institutions, for a series of once in a lifetime exhibitions. Some of these, such as Woburn’s Treasures at the Queen’s House, have an exclusive focus whilst others are broader exhibitions that are able to feature the artworks because of the Abbey’s closure.

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HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE: FACES OF A QUEEN: THE ARMADA PORTRAITS OF ELIZABETH I The three surviving versions of the iconic Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I are to go on public display together in a free exhibition at the Queen’s House in Greenwich (13 February 2020 until 31 August 2020). The exhibition, entitled Faces of a Queen, is the first time the paintings have been displayed together in their 430-year history.  

CANALETTO: PAINTING VENICE The Woburn Abbey Canaletto paintings were commissioned by Lord John Russell (who became 4th Duke of Bedford in 1732), after he had visited Venice while on his Grand Tour in 1731. It is thought that he had met with Canaletto’s agent Joseph Smith, and requested a series of views of the city, as a souvenir of his time there. These paintings will leave Woburn Abbey together for the first time to make a stunning display in the Holburne’s Roper Gallery

TROY: MYTH AND REALITY An ancient sarcophagus which has not left Woburn Abbey since it was acquired in 1824 is showcased in the British Museum’s exhibition ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’. The sculpture depicts moments in the hero Achilles’ life immediately after the death of his rival, Hector, in the Trojan War.







Auckland Castle, Bishop Auckland


Augmenting their own collection until 2021

British Museum, London

Troy: Myth and Reality

21 November 2019 – 8 March 2020

Queen’s House, Greenwich

Faces of a Queen:The Armada Portraits of Elizabeth I

13 February - 31 August 2020

Queen’s House, Greenwich

Woburn Treasures

13 February 2020 – 17 January 2021

Holburne Museum, Bath

Canaletto: Painting Venice

12 June – 20 September 2020

Hampton Court, London

Gold and Glory: Henry VIII and the French King

3rd April – 21st September 2020



Dordrechts Museum, Netherlands

In the Light of Cuyp: Aelbert Cuyp & Gainsborough - Constable – Turner

27 September 2020 – 14 March 2021

The Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles

Rubens: Picturing Antiquity

21 October 2020 – 11 January 2021

Speaking about the restoration of Woburn Abbey, The Duke of Bedford said;

“The Bedford Estates have invested continually in the different areas of our businesses ever since my Grandfather first opened the Abbey in 1955. He created Woburn Safari Park, and my Father then built the three championship golf courses at Woburn Golf Club. Now we are able to invest in the Abbey itself, to bring it up to date as a visitor attraction, and ensure its preservation for generations to come.”

The works began on 1st September 2019 after extensive consultations with Historic England, Central-Bedfordshire District Council and numerous art experts, as well as the Abbey staff.  The Abbey and Gardens will reopen Easter 2021.


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