Woburn Abbey

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Woburn Abbey (pronounced Wo-burn), near Woburn, Bedfordshire, England, is the seat of the Duke of Bedford and the location of the Woburn Safari Park.


Pre 20th century

Woburn Abbey, comprising Woburn Park and its buildings, was originally founded as a Cistercian abbey in 1145 [1]. Taken from its monastic residents by Henry VIII and given to John Russell, 1st Earl of Bedford in 1547, it became the seat of the Russell Family and the Dukes of Bedford. The Abbey was largely rebuilt starting in 1744[1] by the architects Henry Flitcroft and Henry Holland for the 4th Duke. Anna Maria, the wife of the 7th Duke, originated the afternoon tea ritual in 19th-century England.[2]

1945 to 1970s

Following World War II, dry rot had been discovered and half the Abbey was subsequently demolished. When the 12th Duke died in 1953, his son the 13th Duke was exposed to heavy death duties and the Abbey was a half-demolished, half-derelict house. Instead of handing the family estates over to the National Trust, he kept ownership and opened the Abbey to the public for the first time in 1955. It soon gained in popularity as other amusements were added, including Woburn Safari Park on the grounds of the Abbey in 1970. Asked about the unfavourable comments by other aristocrats when he turned the family home into a safari park, the 13th Duke said, "I do not relish the scorn of the peerage, but it is better to be looked down on than overlooked."

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