Recent visitors to Woburn Abbey will have noticed areas of almost bare wood panelling in one of the rooms visited on the tour. During 2013, we have been investigating the layers of wallpaper, allowing us to see the different decoration of this room over the centuries. The room in question is located on the ground floor and was used as the 4th Duke of Bedford’s bedroom in the mid-1700s. The Duke suffered from painful gout and preferred not to use the stairs.
Behind a crimson flock paper (pictured far right), which dates from the 1950s, we discovered what used to be a large cupboard. The recess would have had a number of wooden shelves and have been enclosed behind a door. Attached to the wood panelling nearby, we discovered fragments of several different wallpapers from earlier centuries. These included a patterned blue paper which dates from the mid-1800s (small fragment pictured centre).
Records show that after the death of the 4th Duke in 1771, this room became an office for senior servants. The room was redecorated with a blue, white and black paper that imitated moulded plaster (pictured top). It is difficult to know exactly when this paper was hung, but we can estimate between 1771 and 1820.
The 4th Duke's Wallpaper
As we continued to uncover the layers, we made an exciting discover in the corner behind the door to Paternoster Row. It was here that we discovered small fragments of Chinese printed wallpaper decorated with flowers. We have also found an invoice for wallpaper that matches its description, allowing us to date the paper to around 1751.
From these small fragments we can begin to imagine how the 4th Dukes bedroom looked 250 years ago.