New Display Opens at The Higgins Bedford: Warden Abbey Revealed

Published on 11 October 2021

Event in Bedford Town Centre

19th October 2021 – October 2022

Warden Abbey Revealed, a new archaeological display showcasing the grandeur of one of the most influential Cistercian houses in medieval England, opens on Tuesday 19th October at The Higgins Bedford.

Warden Abbey was founded by Walter Espec in 1135, and populated by monks from Rievaulx Abbey in Yorkshire. In its heyday, the abbey was home to over 100 monks. They were supported by about 300 lay brothers, who ran its farms, mills, warrens, woodlands, and urban properties across 7 counties and the City of London. The abbey prospered thanks to the wool trade, and the monks rebuilt their church in the early 14th century. Warden Abbey was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1537, and the buildings were demolished, leaving nothing above ground.

This display highlights the research carried out by the Old Warden History & Heritage Society, which, set alongside the results of a geophysical survey by MOLA (Northampton), reveals new and exciting information about Warden Abbey. These have been combined by former English Heritage artist, Peter Dunn, to create a reconstruction painting showing how Warden Abbey may have looked c. 1370, after the east end of the church had been rebuilt.

The original painting will be on display alongside a selection of archaeological artefacts recovered from excavation at Warden Abbey, including architectural fragments, floor tiles, stained glass, and more.

Cllr Doug McMurdo, Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, said: “The opening of the Warden Abbey Revealed display at The Higgins Bedford is just around the corner and it’s sure to be a really interesting and exciting event.

“If you’ve got an interest in history or just want to find out more about Bedford Borough’s Heritage, then it’s sure to be a great day out.”

Warden Abbey Revealed will be on display until October 2022 and is free to visit. If you’d like to find out more or book tickets, visit

The Warden Abbey Revealed display is the result of a collaboration between the following sponsors and partner organisations: The Higgins Bedford, Bedford Borough Council, Old Warden History & Heritage Society, MOLA (Northampton), National Lottery Heritage Fund, The Southill Estate, The Greensand Country Landscape Partnership, The Landmark Trust, Old Warden Parish Council, Central Bedfordshire Council, Robert Kiln Charitable Trust, Mick Aston Archaeology Fund, Tarmac A CRH Company, Council for British Archaeology, Historic England, volunteers, and private benefactors.

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