Woburn is best known for its award-winning safari park. However, the rest of the Abbey estate is well worth visiting too – from the antique bookcases and Victorian balloon backed dining chairs of the state rooms, to the impressive pavilion in the gardens, which has just won the New Commission prize in the 2012 Hudson’s Heritage Awards.
The family seat of the Dukes of Bedford since 1547, Woburn was originally a 12th century Cistercian abbey, but was substantially rebuilt in the 18th Century. In 1802 Lord John Russell, the 6th Duke, commissioned the acclaimed landscape gardener Humphrey Repton to produce designs to improve the gardens and deer park. Repton duly produced plans for a formal Pleasure Grounds, incorporating a Children’s Garden, aviary, and a rockery surmounted by a striking green, red and gold Chinese-style pavilion.
Over the years, the gardens suffered from weather damage and neglect, but around seven years ago the family and estate management team began an ambitious project to restore the gardens to Repton’s original designs, which had been safely stored in the Abbey. Following the erection of the new Pavilion, the project was declared open by Her Grace the Duchess of Bedford in July 2012 – the icing on the cake being the Heritage award.
The gardens are pretty chilly right now but inside, Woburn Abbey has plenty to entertain visitors from Lancashire – from the antique bookcases of the library, to the antique dining chairs of the state dining room. Similar fine furniture can be found at antique dealers in Preston and the Ribble Valley.
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