Woburn Abbey is scheduled to be closed to visitors for about 18 months from September 2019 as it undergoes the biggest refurbishment since it first opened to the public in 1955.
The Duke and Duchess of Bedford today (Wednesday) announced plans for significant investment to transform the historic family house.
The project will update the Abbey as a visitor attraction, providing first-class facilities, including disabled access.
The major refurbishment of the Abbey will include the North and South Courts and result in improved presentation and facilities for the Sculpture Gallery.
The Abbey says the closure provides the opportunity to conserve further the fabulous art collections, so that they are preserved for future generations, and to facilitate renewed interpretation of the fascinating stories associated with them.
The Duke of Bedford said: “The Bedford Estates have invested continually in the different areas of our businesses ever since my grandfather first opened the Abbey in 1955. He created Woburn Safari Park, and my father then built the three championship golf courses at Woburn Golf Club.
“Now we are able to invest in the Abbey itself, to bring it up to date as a visitor attraction, and ensure its preservation for generations to come.’
The plans have been brought forward following extensive consultations with Historic England, Central Bedfordshire Council and numerous art experts, as well as the Abbey staff.
Subject to planning approval being achieved in the coming months, it is hoped that works will start on September 1, 2019. This will necessitate the closure of the Abbey and Gardens from this date until Easter 2021.
Given to the Russell family by Henry VIII in 1547, Woburn Abbey has been the family home of the Earls and Dukes of Bedford since the early 17th century. Today it is home to the 15th Duke of Bedford and his family.
Over 500 years the Russell family have created a fascinating cultural, social and political history, at the forefront of our national heritage.
Woburn Abbey is open to the public from late March to end of October annually.
The Woburn Abbey Collection includes important works by artists such as Rembrandt, Claude Lorrain, Aelbert Cuyp, Sir Anthony van Dyck, Sir Joshua Reynolds, Thomas Gainsborough and 24 views of Venice by Canaletto.
Woburn Abbey is the home of afternoon tea; the quintessential English tradition popularised in the 1840s by Duchess Anna Maria, wife of the 7th Duke of Bedford.
In 1804 Humphry Repton created the designs for Woburn Park and Gardens. Today his designs can be enjoyed within 28 acres of award-winning, beautiful and historic gardens, which have been extensively restored based on his original plans.
Woburn Abbey’s Deer Park covers 3,000 acres and is home to nine species of deer making it one of the largest private conservation parks in Europe.
The present Duke and Duchess of Bedford have been managing the estates since 2002.