140th Anniversary Celebration
"A Walk Through Time"

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THE PARISH CHURCH OF ST MARY THE VIRGIN, Woburn in Bedfordshire was designed by the architect Henry Clutton and built between 1865 and 1868 for William, 8th Duke of Bedford. From 22 to 26 May 2008, in order to celebrate its 140th anniversary, the church held a Flower Festival entitled 'A Walk Through Time'.

This website has been created by a visitor to the festival and includes photographs taken during that visit. Acknowledgement is given to the creators and sponsors of St Mary's Church website from which the following edited description of the church has been taken. The official website of the church may be accessed here.

Henry Clutton had just finished another church for his patron at Tavistock on the Russell estate there. It was an equally grand conception in the Romanesque style. Clutton was a student of French medieval architecture. He had previously won a design competition for a cathedral at Lille although his plan was never carried forward to the construction stage.

St Mary's was originally built with a tall spire which had to be dismantled for safety reasons in 1890. A crypt for the internment of ducal family members was also constructed but the Russells have continued to use the family vault at Chenies in Buckinghamshire.

The interior has the hallmarks of a French cathedral, with its lofty lines, slender pillars and single vaulted roof. At the eastern end of the south aisle there is a stained glass window depicting St Francis of Assisi standing among the birds and flowers of the Woburn Abbey estate. It commemorates the life of Mary, Duchess of Bedford from 1865 to 1937, a lady 'whose work was in the hospitals, whose delight was in the birds'. Mary built and ran a cottage hospital at Maryland in Woburn where wounded soldiers were treated during the First World War. She was among the early aviatrixes and failed to return after her aircraft went missing on a flight over East Anglia.

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In the village is all that remains of the medieval church of Woburn. While modern St Mary's was under construction much of it was demolished except, particularly, for the elegant tower which had been restored by Blore in 1830. Today it houses the 'Woburn Heritage Centre', a museum of local life and history. The church pictured in 1910 (right) presents much the same appearance today.

For the first page of festival photographs please click here.