VIDEO: Peeling back the years - discover rare Chinese wallpaper at exhibition

Discovery of 200-year-old wallpaper at Woburn Abbey can be admired at an exciting new exhibition and garden trail.

Extremely rare Chinese wallpaper dating back to 1752 was revealed after peeling back layers within the walls of the 4th Duke of Bedford’s private bedchamber, writes Natalee Hazelwood.

Woburn Abbey Chinese wallpaper exhibition.

Woburn Abbey Chinese wallpaper exhibition.

The wallpaper is believed to have been made in Canton and was considered extremely unusual for that period.

With its beautifully hand-painted silver pheasants and peonies it astounds exhibition curator Lucy Johnston to find out that some of the plants still exist in the gardens today.

The Duke’s private bedroom has been left in its ‘investigative state’ with the various layers of wallpaper on display alongside original documents and items used to make and preserve Chinese wallpaper today.

Visitors can then follow the trail upstairs to the brightly coloured Chinese room with floor to ceiling Chinese wallpaper dating back 1820.

Curator Lucy Johnson.

Curator Lucy Johnson.

The bold hand-drawn ‘whimsical’ piece differs from the botanically correct artwork of the 18th century wallpaper in the Duke’s private chamber and directly reflects chinese artistic influences otherwise known as chinoiserie, still visible around Woburn Abbey today.

Within the house trail a selection of Chinese related artworks reflecting the collecting tastes of the Duke of Bedford chart the progression through the different rooms and periods.

Outside in the gardens the second trail links to the depictions in both the 18th and 19th century wallpaper.

Uncover the camellias, peonies and silver pheasants from the wallpaper in the Chinese Dairy, Aviary and Camellia House. Also on the garden tour is the recently restored pavilion on the rockery and Chinese pavilion in the Maze, which is fun for all the family.

Woburn Abbey Chinese wallpaper exhibition - detail of paper.

Woburn Abbey Chinese wallpaper exhibition - detail of paper.

The exhibition and garden trail is now open daily from 11am to 5pm (last entry at 4pm) until September 28.

Watch our video interview with Peeling Back the Years exhibition curator Lucy Johnson and head gardener Andrew Grout on the Chinese influences in the garden trail. Visit

For more information and a blog on the Chinoiserie at Woburn Abbey visit and search for Chinese Wallpaper.