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Cistercian Abbeys: WOBURN

Name: WOBURN Location: nr Woburn County: Bedfordshire
Foundation: 1145 Mother house: Fountains
Relocation: None Founder: Hugh de Bolebec
Dissolution: 1538 Prominent members:
Access: Open to the public

Woburn was established in 1145 under the patronage of Hugh de Bolebec and at the advice of Abbot Henry Murdac of Fountains. The founding community was from Fountains Abbey and it seems that Adam, a monk of Fountains and later the first abbot of Meaux (1150), supervised the building work here.
In 1204 Woburn must have had a community of at least twenty-six for it was large enough to provide a colony of monks for a daughter foundation at Medmenham. However, thirty years later the house appears to have been in serious financial difficulties. The abbey was in such poverty that the majority of monks and lay-brethren had to be accommodated in other houses. The abbey soon regained its wealth and by the 1280s Woburn was one of the wealthiest in the county. The house was still in a good financial state at the time of the Dissolution. In the assessment of 1535 its net annual income was valued at £391 and, following the suppression of the house, 419 ounces of gilt plate and 326 ounces of parcel gilt plate were removed from the abbey. The last abbot, Robert Hobbes, and two of his monks were executed with several others in 1538 for opposing the Oath of Supremacy; all the remaining monks were expelled and the house was seized by the crown.
In 1547 the site was granted to Lord John Russell, and it has remained in his family ever since. A large house was built on the site during the eighteenth century which may incorporate parts of the cloister building within its walls. The house, which takes its name from the abbey, still occupies the site and is privately owned by the duke of Bedford. Although there are no ruins to be seen, the country house is open to the public on a regular basis.