My little honey badgers, this week we’re off to the zoo, or more correctly the story of animals and Woburn Park.
It was in 1690 that a licence to keep deer in the Woburn Park had been granted to the Earls of Bedford, but others also had an interest and on April 11, 1659 a local ‘gent’ was indicted for unlawfully entering the Park, chasing the deer with a greyhound, and killing and carrying away a doe.
In fact by the beginning of the 18th century the stock had become so depleted that to fulfil an obligation to send two bucks to Trinity College, Cambridge, the Duke had to borrow some from the Duke of Rutland.
However, the little deer seem to have gone forth and prolifically multiplied, for having purchased the manor of Husborne Crawley the Duke had almost half the houses cleared away to allow for expansion of the Park. Continuing the animal antics, in 1793, the fifth Duke of Bedford, Francis, was nominated as a member of the original agricultural board, and as an experiment he had sections of the Park hurdled off with a different breed of sheep placed in each.
He then weighed them after they had grazed on grass, and then on turnips. In 1797 the Duke established the famed Woburn annual sheep shearing, and in 1801 became the first president of the Beds Agricultural Society.
Then in the late 19th century the 11th Duke of Bedford, Herbrand, introduced Pere David (or Milu) deer into the Park and since many in time escaped from their confines their descendants are still to be found in the local countryside.
Nowadays the animal tradition is well established with Woburn Safari Park, and especially at this time of year, among local attractions it quite literally takes the lion’s share of attention.