Our History

WOBURN HERITAGE CENTRE TRUST

The Trust was formed in 1984 to save and restore Old St. Mary’s Church and to use the building for the benefit of the community. For centuries the parish church had stood on this site but in 1868 a new, larger church was built nearby and the old church was reduced in size and became a mortuary chapel, since the village graveyard surrounds the building. In the 1960s, when the population of the village had fallen to 700, the Parish Church could no longer sustain the chapel upkeep, and after years of neglect, the building was saved by the Trust.

Since 1984 the Centre has become an accredited museum and tourist information point and in 2008 was completely refurbished with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The Centre is open every day from April to September and at weekends only in October. Run entirely by volunteers, entrance to the Centre is free but donations are always welcome.

The tower dates back to the 16th century and in 1830 the old wooden lantern was replaced by a white stone top and a clock, made by B.L. Vulliamy, clockmaker to William IV was installed Today the clock keeps perfect time and strikes on the hour.

WOBURN VILLAGE

First mentioned in the Doomsday Book, the hamlet of Woburn grew to be a village when the monastery at Woburn Abbey, 1 mile away, was formed in the 12th Century. The village grew to be a small market town and thrived in the coaching era of the late 18th to mid 19th century, being a staging post between London and the North and from Oxford to Cambridge. In mid century the Oxford to Cambridge Railway came but passed Woburn by and the population declined, making Woburn a village once more. In 1724 a fire swept through the centre of Woburn, destroying 37 buildings. The rebuilding produced the beautiful Georgian facades we see today.

Timeline

January 1985
Formation of Woburn Heritage Centre Trust to restore Old St Mary’s and turn it into a museum of village life.
2001
Glazing the entrance porch, rewiring the building and creating a resource room, aided by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
2008
Professional redesign and refurbishment of the museum exhibition, aided by a grant from the National Lottery Fund.
2011
Restoration of the pinnacles of the beautiful Blore “wedding cake” tower of 1830, supported by a grant from WREN.