Woburn in 1835
Woburn, 41 or 42 miles from London, is a well built and well paved town, with broad and handsome streets. It owes much of its appearance to the circumstance of its having been almost entirely rebuilt since 1724, when it was destroyed by fire. It has a good market-house, built by the Bedford family after the great fire just noticed, and much improved by the present duke, from picturesque designs of Mr. Blore.
The parish church and school-house have also been enlarged at his Grace's expense, by the same eminent architect ; and a beautiful lantern and pinnacles have been added to the church tower. It has a parish church (the living is a perpetual curacy, with a commodious glebe house in the gift of the Duke of Bedford), two dissenting meeting houses (Independent and Methodist), some almshouses and a large free-school, conducted on the Lancasterian system.
The chief employments of the poor are straw-hat and lace-making. There are four fairs in the year ; and the market is held weekly on Friday. A divisional or petty session is held in the market-house every fortnight
There was an abbey of Cistercian monks at Woburn founded by Hugh de Bolebec, in 1145. It was valued at the dissolution at £430, 13 shillings, 11 pence gross income, or £391, 18 shillings, 8 pence clear yearly value. The last abbot, Robert Hobs, was executed for denying the king's supremacy ; and the site of the abbey was granted to John, Lord Russell, afterwards Earl of Bedford. Part of the old abbey remains, but has been converted into the Duke of Bedfords magnificent mansion which still retains the name
The present abbey was partly put into its present form about the middle, and partly towards the end, of the last century, and occupies four sides of a quadrangle, presenting four fronts of above 200 feet. The west or principal front is of the Ionic order, with a rustic basement. The offices are at a short distance from the mansion ; and the park is finely diversified with wood and water. The tree on which Abbot Hobs was hung is still standing, and is carefully preserved.
The abbey is adorned with some interesting portraits, including those of Queens Mary and Elizabeth ; another of Mary with her husband, Philip of Spain ; Lady Jane Seymour, wife of Henry VIII, and mother of Edward VI ; Anne of Denmark, wife of James I ; Sir Philip Sidney ; William Lord Russell, beheaded in 1683 ; Rachel Wriothesley his admirable wife ; General Monk ; Cecil, Lord Burleigh ; and many others. In the dining-room is a fine collection of portraits by Vandyke ; and in the breakfast-room a numerous series of views in Venice, by Conaletti, painted originally for Bedford House. In the sculpture gallery are the antique vase known as the Lanti vase, brought over to England by Lord Cawdor, and a very large marble ancient sarcophagus (brought from Ephesus), on the four sides of which are sculptured the sad story of Achilles dragging Hector s body, Priam's ransoming it at its weight in gold, and other post-Homeric traditions of the woes of Andromache and Astyanax.
In the park is a farm-yard on the most extensive scale, and furnished with every convenience. It originated with Francis, brother and predecessor of the present Duke of Bedford.