Home of a very English tradition, the afternoon tea... Set in a beautiful 3,000-acre deer park, Woburn Abbey has been the home of the Dukes of Bedford for nearly 400 years. Dating back to 1145, the Abbey was originally a religious house for Cistercian monks, when in 1547 King Henry VIII bequeathed the Estate to Sir John Russell, the 1st Earl of Bedford.
Woburn Abbey is celebrated for housing one of the most significant private art collections in the world, including paintings by Cuyp, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Van Dyck and Canaletto. A tour of the Abbey covers three floors, with 18th century French and English furniture, silver and gold collections, and a wide range of porcelain. Of special note, the 'Armada Portrait', in the Long Gallery, was painted by George Gower in 1588. This legendary symbolic portrait of Elizabeth I commemorates the victorious sea battle against the Spanish Armada, portraying the Tudor Queen as commander of the seas.
Home of a quintessentially English tradition, afternoon tea is said to have originated at Woburn Abbey around 1840, when Duchess Anna Maria, wife of the 7th Duke of Bedford, was entertaining her friends in the Blue Drawing Room. Finding the time between luncheon and dinner too long, the Duchess introduced a light tea, served mid-afternoon.
Elizabeth I, Charles I, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert all visited Woburn Abbey over the years, but you don't have to be royalty to visit one of Britain's most treasured houses.