Houghton House, not to be confused with Hoghton Towers, is a three-story stately home built by Lady Pembroke, sister of Sir Philip Sidney in 1621. The architect is presumed to be John Thorpe.
Houghton is reputedly the model for "House Beautiful" in John Bunyan's masterpiece, Pilgrim's Progress. Given that Bunyan was a Bedfordshire native and used many real Bedfordshire locations in his work, this association seems probable.
Incorporated into a grand frieze on the western front of Houghton are the heraldic devices of the Sidney and Dudley families. This frieze, one of the first examples of the emerging Jacobean style in Britain, may haver been the work of Inigo Jones. Jones is also thought to be responsible for the pine-pannelled Haynes Grange Room, now exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
Lady Pembroke did not enjoy Houghton House for long. She died in 1624 and the property passed to the Bruce family, who held it until 1738 when it was sold to the Russell's, Dukes of Bedford (see Woburn Abbey).
In 1794 the then Duke stripped Houghton of its furnishings and removed the roof. The 1688 staircase from Houghton, possibly the work of Christopher Wren, is now at the Swan Hotel in Bedford. Houghton is now a ruin, administered as an ancient monument by English Heritage.