Bedford: Wikis


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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Coordinates: 52°08′01″N 0°27′28″W / 52.1337°N 0.4577°W / 52.1337; -0.4577

Bedford Town Bridge at night
Bedford is located in Bedfordshire

 Bedford shown within Bedfordshire
Population 79,190 
OS grid reference TL055495
    - London  57.4m 
Unitary authority Bedford
Ceremonial county Bedfordshire
Region East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town BEDFORD
Postcode district MK40, MK41, MK42
Dialling code 01234
Police Bedfordshire
Fire Bedfordshire and Luton
Ambulance East of England
EU Parliament East of England
UK Parliament Bedford
List of places: UK • England • Bedfordshire

Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, in the East of England. It is a large town and the administrative centre for the wider Borough of Bedford. According to Bedfordshire County Council's estimates, the town had a population of 79,190 in mid 2005, with 19,720 in the adjacent town of Kempston. The wider borough, including a rural area, had a population of 153,000.



Bedford was a market town for the surrounding agricultural region from the early Middle Ages[citation needed] The Anglo-Saxon King Offa of Mercia was buried in the town in 796.[1] In 886 it became a boundary town separating Wessex and Danelaw.[2][3] It was the seat of the Barony of Bedford. In 919 Edward the Elder built the town's first known fortress, on the south side of the River Ouse and there received the area's submission. This fortress was destroyed by the Danes. William II gave the barony of Bedford to Paine de Beauchamp who built a new, strong castle. The new Bedford Castle was razed in 1224 and today only a mound remains.[4]

Bedford traces its borough charter in 1166 by Henry II[5] and elected two members to the unreformed House of Commons.

Bedford remained a small agricultural town, with wool being an important industry in the area for much of the Middle Ages[citation needed] From the 1560s Bedford and much of Bedfordshire became one of the main centres of England's Lace industry, with skilled lace-makers such as the Flemings[citation needed] and then later the Huguenots emigrating from Europe to settle in the town and surrounding county.[6] Lace continued to be an important industry in Bedford up until the early 20th century.[7]

The River Great Ouse became navigable as far as Bedford in 1689. Wool declined in importance with brewing becoming a major industry in the town.

In 1660 John Bunyan was imprisoned for 12 years in Bedford Gaol. It was here that he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress.[8]

The 19th Century saw Bedford transform into an important engineering hub. In 1832 Gas lighting was introduced, and the railway reached Bedford in 1846. The first Corn Exchange was built 1849,[9] and the first drains and sewers were dug in 1864.[10]


Bedford is the largest settlement in Borough of Bedford. The borough council is led by a directly elected mayor who holds the title 'Mayor of Bedford', an office which was first held by Frank Branston, until his death in 2009. The newly elected Mayor of Bedford is Dave Hodgson from the Liberal Democrat Party.

Bedford itself is divided into 10 wards: Brickhill, Castle, Cauldwell, De Parys, Goldington, Harpur, Kingsbrook, Newnham, Putnoe and Queens Park. Brickhill elects its own parish council, while Queens Park and Kingsbrook & Cauldwell have their own urban community councils (which have similar powers to a parish council). The rest (and majority) of Bedford is an unparished area.

Bedford forms part of the Bedford and Kempston constituency, represented in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Parliament. The current MP for Bedford and Kempston is Patrick Hall, who is a member of the Labour Party.


A map of Bedford and Kempston

The town of Bedford is divided into 10 wards or areas: Brickhill, Castle, Cauldwell, De Parys, Goldington, Harpur, Kingsbrook, Newnham, Putnoe and Queens Park.

The town of Kempston is adjacent to Bedford, as are the villages of Elstow and Renhold. Villages in the Borough of Bedford with populations of more than 2,000 as of 2005 were Biddenham, Bromham, Clapham, Elstow, Oakley, Sharnbrook, Shortstown, Wilstead, and Wootton. There are also many smaller villages in the borough. The villages in the borough are popular with commuters to Bedford, and also with people who commute to Milton Keynes and to London.

Nearby small towns include Ampthill, Biggleswade, Flitwick, and Sandy, all of which are in Central Bedfordshire. The nearest towns and cities with larger populations than Bedford are Northampton to the north west, Cambridge to the east, Milton Keynes to the south west, and Luton to the south, all of which have urban area populations of 130,000 or more. Milton Keynes and Cambridge in particular are used by Bedfordians for services that are not available in Bedford, especially the shopping and leisure facilities in Milton Keynes.

River Great Ouse in Bedford from Town Bridge, looking downstream. The old Coaching Inn, the Swan Hotel is on the left behind the tree. Bedford Rowing Club and the multistorey Bedford Park Inn are on the right.


Climate data for Bedford
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.4
Average low °C (°F) 0.8
Precipitation mm (inches) 48.4
Sunshine hours 58.6 76.3 99.5 153.0 183.8 185.7 200.9 188.5 139.8 114.1 72.0 51.5 1,523.6
Source: [11] 2008-06-16


Bedford is home to one of the largest concentrations of Italian immigrants in the UK. According to a 2001 census, 2 in 7 (almost 30%) of Bedford's population are of at least partial Italian descent. This is mainly as a result of labour recruitment in the early 1950s by the London Brick Company in the southern Italian regions of Puglia, Campania, Calabria, Molise, Abruzzo and Sicily.[12] Bedford's Little Italy feel is enhanced by a wide variety of Italian bars, restaurants and social clubs throughout the town. as well as a large number of delis and grocery shops selling Italian and continental produce - and by the large Italian mission church run by the Scalabrini Fathers order. From 1954 to 2008 Bedford had its own Italian vice-consulate.[13]

In addition to Italian immigrants, Bedford has also been the recipient of significant immigration from South Asia (8.1% of Bedford's population[14]), Eastern Europe (particularly in the 2000s), Greece, Cyprus, the Middle East and Africa (3% of Bedford's population is of Sub-Saharan descent[14]), making it one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse towns in Britain and the world, particularly in proportion to its size. Bedford is home to over one hundred immigrant languages, including Italian, Punjabi, Persian, Turkish, Polish, Portuguese and both Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese.[citation needed]


The River Great Ouse passes through the town centre and is lined with gardens known as The Embankment. Within these gardens stands a war memorial to the fallen of the First World War, opposite Rothsay Gardens.[15] The memorial was designed in 1921 by the sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger and depicts a Knight vanquishing a dragon.[16] The inscription reads

1914 † 1919

Bedford Castle Mound is the remnant of Bedford's medieval castle, located close to the centre of the modern town, less than a hundred yards from Bedford Bridge and the high street. Bedford Borough Council built a sloping retaining wall on the south side, facing the river in circa 2000. Though almost completely modern, the wall does incorporate a few pieces of original masonry. A paved path leads round the side of the mound up to the top, which is a flat circular grassy area. A small wooden structure of the same date at the top of the wall, much like a bus shelter, protects tourists from the rain while they view the river embankment.

Bedford's principal church is St Paul's Church, Bedford, in the square of the same name at the historic centre of the town. It has a tall spire which is one of the main features of the town. There was a church on the site by 1066 and work on the present structure began in the early 13th century, but little remains from that period. John Bunyan and John Wesley both preached in the church. In 1865-1868 the tower and spire were completely rebuilt and the two transepts added and lesser alterations have been made since. From 1941 to the end of the Second World War the BBC's daily service was broadcast from St. Paul's. Another church of note is St. Peter's Church, Bedford (Situated on St Peter's Street) which contains some of the oldest architectural remains in Bedford, the most ancient being the two monoliths.

Bedford Park is the town's largest urban park, and is located drectly to the north of the town centre. The park retains many original features from its Victorian design and construction, including a cricket pavilion and bandstand which are both still in use. Priory Country Park is a large country park located on the northern bank of the River Ouse in eastern Bedford. Both parks have been awarded Green Flag status.


Bedford (Midland) railway station


Bedford lies on the A6 road, and two of the most important north-south routes in Great Britain, the A1 and the M1 motorway pass a few miles to the east and west respectively. Two road improvement schemes are currently in process to link the town to the M1[17] and A1[18] via dual carriageway. This will significantly improve access to the town, which currently requires the use of frequently congested single carriageway roads. Bedford has a southern bypass along the A421.

The first section of the Bedford Western Bypass (from the A421 and the A428 road) was completed in December 2009 and is named after former mayor Frank Branston[19], and is designated as part of the A428 trunk road.

Park and ride

Bedford also has its own Park and ride operation situated to the south of the town near Elstow. Currently this is the only site which has been completed, but there are plans to develop more sites around the town.[20]

Buses and coaches

Prior to bus deregulation in 1986, bus services in and around Bedford were run by the United Counties subsidiary of the National Bus Company. The United Counties business was bought by the Stagecoach Group in November 1987 and has since been branded Stagecoach in Bedford.

The town's bus services and major bus routes run to Northampton, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Oxford and other towns in the region. Most of these services depart from the main bus station in the town. The bus station itself is due for major redevelopment as part of a scheme to renovate the town centre.[21]

Some major withdrawals of services by Stagecoach have led to other providers introducing services in Bedford, including MK Metro who run services to/from Olney, Grant Palmer of Dunstable who run to Flitwick & Dunstable and Fenlake based company Expresslines also provide a limited service on some routes.

Local transport company, Cedar Coaches also runs services from Bedford to surrounding areas.[22]

Other operators in Bedford have included Ementon of Cranfield, Buffalo Travel of Flitwick, Mullover Travel of Bedford and JBS travel of Blunham. JBS & Buffalo both launched competitive attacks on certain routes against Stagecoach, but neither were successful in the long term, and both companies have ceased trading.


Bedford has two railway stations:

Recent developments

Western Bypass (A421 - A428)

Bedford Western Bypass
The route of the Bedford Western Bypass and the A421 widening.
Location Bedford
Proposer Bedford Borough Council
Status Completed Early
Type Road
cost estimate £28 million
start date 2007
completion date December 2009
Geometry KML

The Bedford Western Bypass from the A421 and the A428[23] was completed in December 2009 and is named after former mayor Frank Branston[19], and is designated as part of the A428 trunk road.

Current developments

A421 Bedford to M1 Junction 13

A new 13 km dual carriageway is being built alongside the existing carriageway between the M1 Junction 13 and the Bedford Southern bypass and a new bridge over the M1 together with changes to the A6 road. It is due for completion in late 2010.[24]

Proposed developments

Bedford Western bypass (A428 - A6 north)

Bedford Borough Council is campaigning for an additional section of the Western Bypass from the A428 and the A6 to the north of the town although there are currently no plans to start construction on that stretch.[25] The first section of the bypass from the A421 to the A428 opened in December 2009.[19]


Unlike most of England, Bedford Borough operates a three-tier education system which is arranged into lower, middle and upper schools, as recommended in the Plowden Report of 1967. The arrangement was put to the vote in 2006 with a view to moving to the two-tier model, but was rejected.[26] State upper schools in the town include St Thomas More Catholic Upper School , John Bunyan Upper School, Mark Rutherford Upper School and Biddenham Upper School. On 17 November 2009, borough councillors voted 19 to 17 in favour of a two tier system, which will now be phased in.

Bedford is home to five public schools run by the Harpur Trust charity, endowed by Bedfordian Sir William Harpur in the sixteenth century. These are:

Smaller private institutions include Rushmoor School (boys aged 3–16, girls 3-11) St. Andrew's School (girls aged 3–16, boys 3-9), and Polam Oaks School, none of which are part of the Harpur Trust.

Bedford hosts a campus of the University of Bedfordshire, which prior to a merger with the University of Luton in 2006 had been a campus of De Montfort University (itself now solely based in Leicester). For further education, the town is served by Bedford College. Additionally, Stella Mann College is a private college, which offers a range of further education courses relating to the performing arts.

Religious sites

The Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Bedford

Bedford has a high number of Christian churches including four from the Newfrontiers network, several Polish and Italian Roman Catholic churches, LDS (Mormon) meetinghouses, and various independent churches that cater to the different ethnic and language groups. There are also three mosques located in the town, as well as the largest Sikh temple in the United Kingdom outside London. There are also Quaker, Jehovah's Witness and Wiccan communities who meet in the town. There is no longer a synagogue in Bedford, but Bedfordshire Progressive Synagogue[1], based in Luton, meets in Bedford once a month for the towns Jewish community. The nearest Orthodox synagogue is the Luton Hebrew Congregation, a Lubavitch synagogue in Luton. Bedford is also the headquarters of the Panacea Society who believe that the town will have an important role in the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.


Bedford Corn Exchange

The Cecil Higgins Gallery, housed in the recreated Victorian home of the Higgins family of Victorian brewers and in a modern extension, has notable collections of watercolours, prints and drawings, ceramics, glass and lace. Adjacent to the Cecil Higgins Gallery is Bedford Museum, which has local history collections.

The Bedford Corn Exchange is the largest entertainment venue in the town and plays host to a variety of performances, meetings, conferences, concerts and private functions. The Corn Exchange also operates the Harpur Suite exhibition hall and the Bedford Civic Theatre which, in 2007 played host to the 'Bedfringe festival', a pre-Edinburgh Fringe festival (Bedfringe has now expanded into multiple venues in the town). The University of Bedfordshire Theatre is the largest theatre in Bedford and hosts many larger productions as well as projects from the university. There is an active amdram (community theatre) scene, with groups such as the Swan Theatre Company, Bedford Dramatic Club (BDC), Bedford Marianettes and ShowCo Bedford producing plays and musicals in venues like the Civic Theatre and the Corn Exchange. The Bedford Pantomime Company produces a traditional pantomime at the Bedford Corn Exchange each Christmas. Esquires (one of the town's premier live music venues) regularly plays host to many notable bands and acts from all over the UK as well as showcasing local live music.

Every two years, an event called "The River Festival" is held near the river in Bedford during early July. The event lasts for two days and regularly attracts about 250,000 visitors. The event includes sports, funfairs and live music. It is the second largest regular outdoor event in the UK beaten in numbers only by the Notting Hill Carnival.[27] The Bedford Regatta each May is Britain's largest one-day river rowing regatta.

Other annual events include 'Bedford By The Sea' (when large quantities of sand are deposited in the town centre) and the 'Bedford International Kite Festival' in June. 'Proms In The Park', held in early August, is a popular musical event.


Bedford has three rugby union teams called Bedford Blues, Bedford Swifts and Bedford Athletic, and, since 2004, has also a rugby league team; Bedford Tigers, who compete one tier below the National Conference. Bedford Blues are currently in the second tier of English rugby, but have previously been in the top division.

Taking into account the size of its overall urban area, it is one of the largest towns in England without a fully professional football team. Bedford Town F.C. currently plays at the seventh level of the English football league system and Bedford F.C. play at the 11th level.

Being on the River Great Ouse, canoeing and rowing have long been established in Bedford and major events are held annually in both sports.

Viking Kayak Club organise the Bedford Kayak Marathon with canoe racing held along the Embankment on Bedford's riverside and organise national ranking Canoe Slalom events at the Cardington Artificial Slalom Course (CASC), which was the first artificial whitewater course in the UK. CASC is also the venue each year for the UK's National Inter Clubs Slalom Finals, the largest canoe slalom event by participation in the UK.


  • The popular BBC TV series Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em was filmed in and around Bedford during the 1970s.
  • In the 2005 motion picture Batman Begins scenes were filmed at the Cardington Sheds in Bedford and featured extras from Bedford. The sequel, 'The Dark Knight', was also partially filmed at the sheds using the fake working name 'Rory's First Kiss' and members of the production cast stayed at various hotels around the town.
  • In the 2006 Comedy Central and DVD versions of Russell Peters' Outsourced, a good natured Bedfordian bears the brunt of Russell's comedic segment "I'm From England".

Public services

Bedford Hospital is a district general hospital that operates from two sites in the town, providing a wide range of services, although patients requiring advanced health services are referred to specialist units elsewhere, particularly Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, which has a partnership with Bedford Hospital. Bedford Hospitals catchment area is based on the Borough of Bedford and parts of Central Bedfordshire.

The Bedfordshire Police Authority is responsible for policing in Bedford, and operates a main police station in the town centre. Fire and rescue services in Bedford are coordinated by the Bedfordshire and Luton Fire and Rescue Service. Bedfords fire station is located in the Newnham area of the town, and is staffed 24 hours a day.

Twinned towns

Bedford is twinned with:

Notable people

John Bunyan
John Bunyan's statue at the corner of the High Street and St Peter's street.

It was the home and prison of John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim's Progress. Prison Reformer John Howard, although born in London, was high Sheriff of Bedfordshire.

Other prominent Bedfordians

People associated with Bedford

People schooled in Bedford


  1. ^ Simon Keynes, "Cynethryth", in Lapidge, Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 133.
  2. ^ "Bedford Timeline, Earliest Times - 1800". Bedfordshire Libraries. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  3. ^ Whitelock, Dorothy; Douglas, David C. (ed) (1979). English Historical Documents c. 500-1042 (2nd edition). Routledge. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  4. ^ "Bedford Castle". CastleUK. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  5. ^ "Brief History of Bedford". Bedford Borough Council. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  6. ^ "The Huguenot Influence". The Cowper and Newton Museum. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  7. ^ "Lacemaking in Bedfordshire - Introduction". Bedford Borough Council. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  8. ^ "John Bunyan (1628-1688)". The Bunyan Press. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  9. ^ "1849 & Friday 1 March 1850". Bedford Corn Exchange. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  10. ^ "Bedford Borough records introduction". Bedfordshire County Council. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  11. ^ "Bedford 1971-2000 averages". Met Office. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  12. ^ "Bedford's Italian question". BBC - Legacies. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  13. ^ "Bedford Italian Community". Bedfordshire Libraries. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  14. ^ a b Official figures from the Office of National Statistics
  15. ^ 52°08′05″N 0°27′30″W / 52.134654°N 0.458215°W / 52.134654; -0.458215
  16. ^ Daniel Stannard/Bedfordshire County Council (2007). "The First World War Memorial, Bedford". Bedfordshire Buildings and Monuments. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  17. ^ "A421 Bedford to M1 Junction 13". Highways Agency. Retrieved 2006-08-18. 
  18. ^ "A421 Great Barford Bypass". Highways Agency. Retrieved 2006-08-18. 
  19. ^ a b c Bedford Today - Branston Way opens at last
  20. ^ "Park & Ride in Bedfordshire". Bedfordshire County Council. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  21. ^ "Bedford's £150 million revamp gets the green light". Bedford Today. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  22. ^ "Timetables". Cedar Coaches. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  23. ^ "Bedford Western Bypass Traffic Management Proposals". Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  24. ^ "Scheme Progress". Highways Agency. 
  25. ^ "Back The Bypass". Bedford Borough Council. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  26. ^ "Two-tier school proposal rejected". BBC News. 2006-07-13. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  27. ^ "River Great Ouse". Bedford Borough Council. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

For other places with the same name, see Bedford (disambiguation).

Bedford is in Bedfordshire county in the East Anglia region of England. It is the county town and the transport, social, cultural and administrative centre of the shire-county of Bedfordshire.


Once on the frontier between the Anglo-Saxons and Danes, it has a charter dating back more than 900 years. It is an important shopping centre, and there are also many pubs and bars. There are a number of good ethnic restaurants, reflecting the town's substantial Italian, Indian, Pakistani, and Polish communities. Bedford has also been heralded for having the widest range of ethnic diversity, boasting one of the few Eskimos in Britain. The Embankment along the River Ouse running through the centre of town is an attractive place for a walk, and once a year is given over to a traditional Regatta. On the picturesque town bridge is a memorial to John Bunyan, the author of 'The Pilgrim's Progress', who was imprisoned there. John Bunyan also lived in Bedford for most of his life, writing The Pilgrim's Progress here, and his life can be seen at the John Bunyan Museum in the town, where a statue dedicated to him can also be seen. There is a large and attractive park with tennis courts, and other niceties north of the town centre (Bedford Park).

Get in

By train

Bedford is served by East Midlands Trains, London Midland and First Capital Connect. Travel to/from London St. Pancras takes about 40 minutes by East Midlands Trains and just over an hour if you take the First Capital Connect train to/from Kings Cross. First Capital Connect trains are slower as they are primarily commuter services. The East Midlands Trains services only stop at a couple of stations between Bedford & London.

There is also a minor railway line going west to Bletchley (near Milton Keynes). Bedford's second train station (Bedford St. John's) is only used by Bletchley trains, whereas all trains going to/from Bedford end up in Bedford Central station sooner or later.

East Midlands Trains go north to Nottingham and beyond.

By bus

Bedford has a reasonably large bus station located in the centre of town. Long distance bus connectivity is therefore good.The bus station and Midland train station are about 800m apart, so it's a max 10 min walk if you need to make a change here.

Bedford is on the X5 bus route between Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge. Buses generally leave every half hour.

By road

Bedford lies directly between the M1 and A1 motorways. Park and Ride facilities are available see, National Park and Ride Directory

Get around

The local bus services around Bedford are terrible, being both infrequent and expensive. Just about everything you'd want to see is within easy walking distance of the high street, however (at most 30 minutes if you're slow), so there's little need for anything more than your feet in good weather.

There's a reasonable but underused shuttle bus leaving the central train station, and the bus service to surrounding villages is excellent.

There are very few provisions for cyclists, though the town centre is pedestrianised. The one way system and endless traffic lights around the centre make for fun riding until you get to know the roads. Reasonably wide roads mean you don't get squeezed off too often.

Taxis are inexpensive in Bedford, although you may expect to queue for some time at town centre taxi ranks. It is usually faster to call for a cab rather than waiting in line.

  • Embankment of the Great Ouse
  • Bunyan Museum
  • Bedford Museum - a good range of anglo-saxon and roman artefacts
  • Bedford Park
  • Castle Mound
  • St Paul's Church
  • St Peter's Church
  • David Brown's Bedford town
  • Hire a boat on the rowing lake near the river. (Summer only)
  • Bedford has a well known Rugby Union team. The grounds are on Goldington Road - if you're lucky you'll be able to catch a game during the rugby season (winter, basically). If you want to fit in, you should occasionally chant "Come on you blues.". However do not join in with the "Bedford, Bedford" moo style chant unless you are sitting in the stand, as they have paid for the priviledge of singing this song.
  • Walk east along the embankment from the main bridge, over the rainbow bridge, round past the boating lake, crossing the butterfly bridge and back along the embankment. A pleasant stroll either during day or night. Stop off at one of the restaurants or pubs on the embankment for refreshments.


In shopping terms, Bedford is quite typical for a town of its size. The centre of town has the normal chain stores. There is a small indoor shopping centre, the Harpur Centre, and one dingy end of it is called the Howard Centre. The central spiral walkway between the two levels of the centre has in recent years been named The Hub and is, apparently, "The place to be seen".

Originally being the region's market town, Bedford has a market every wednesday and saturday with various tradespeople and stalls. Bargains of all kinds can be found here, along with local produce. The market is split between Harpur Square and St. Paul's square.


Tavistock street contains wall to wall restaurants of every kind.

  • Grand Indian. Has a particularly fine Chick Jalfrezi.
  • Saffron. Does a suberb and cheap Sunday lunch buffet.
  • Sizzling Wok. Has an entertaining and delicious lunch or dinner all-you-can-eat buffet, where you add your own ingredients, and watch the professional chefs cook for you.
  • The Choudhury (Indian Cuisine).
  • Olive Grove (Greek Cuisine).
  • Frankie and Benny's (Traditional American Diner).
  • Pizza Express (Pizza Restaurant).
  • Sorentino's (Italian Cuisine).
  • Shanghai Beach. A particularly fine Chinese restaurant offering a fixed price for anything off the menu but all freshly cooked food.


Like all towns in England, Bedford has its fair share of chain pubs and bars packed to the gills on weekends. Walk down the High Street and you'll cover most of them, with a few bars found down Lime Street and various pubs along Tavistock Street.

For a quieter drink with good ales and ciders look out for the Wellington Arms on the corner of Wellington Street and Princes Street, which has won several CAMRA awards. Other good places to drink away from the chav types, are the Castle which does half descent pub grub Sat until 2 Sunday 3. Other main road pubs worth a mention are the ship and there's a selection of live music at the Angel Tavistock Street and esquires

  • Taking the cycle route (an old railway line) out to Willington can be pleasant on a summer's day. Although the route does run right by the sewage works.
  • Bedford is surrounded by small old villages with village pubs. Great Barford (7km to the east), for example, is sure to please.
  • The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) has a nature reserve [1] (and headquarters) in Sandy, 11km to the east.
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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

="">See Bedford (disambiguation) for articles sharing the title Bedford.

BEDFORD, a municipal and parliamentary borough, and the county town of Bedfordshire, England, 50 m. north-north-west of London by the Midland railway; served also by a branch of the London & North-Western. Pop. (1901) 35,144. It lies in the fertile valley of the Ouse, on both banks, but mainly on the north, on which stands the mound which marks the site of the ancient castle. The church of St Paul is Decorated and Perpendicular, but its central tower and spire are modern; it contains the tomb of Sir William Harper or Harpur (c. 1496-1573), lord mayor of London, a notable benefactor of his native town of Bedford. St Peter's church has in its central tower masonry probably of pre-Conquest date; that of St Mary's is in part Norman, and that of St John's Decorated; but the bodies of these churches are largely restored. There are some remains of a Franciscan friary of the 14th century. The Congregational chapel called Bunyan's or the "Old Meeting" stands on the site of the building in which John Bunyan preached from 1656 onward. His chair is preserved here, and a tablet records his life in the town, where he underwent a long but in part nominal imprisonment. He was born at Elstow, 12 m. from Bedford, where, while playing on the green, he believed himself to have received the divine summons to renounce sin. In the panels of a fine pair of bronze doors in the chapel are scenes illustrative of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress. Bedford is noted for its grammar school, founded by Edward VI. in 1552, and endowed by Sir William Harper. The existing buildings date from 1891, and have been increased since that date, and the school is one of the important public schools of England. Harper's endowment includes land in London, and is now of great value, and the Harper Trust supports in addition modern and elementary schools for boys and girls, a girls' high school, and almshouses. The grammar school annually awards both entrance exhibitions and two exhibitions to a university or other higher educational institution. The old grammar school buildings are used as a town hall; and among other modern buildings may be mentioned the shire hall and county hospital. There are statues of John Bunyan (1874) and John Howard (1894) the philanthropist (1726-1790), who founded the Congregational chapel which bears his name, and resided at Cardington in the vicinity. There are two parks. Bedford has a large trade as a market town for agricultural produce, and extensive engineering works and manufactures of agricultural implements. The parliamentary borough returns one member. The municipal borough is under a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area, 2223 acres.

Bedford (Bedcanforda, Bedanforda, Bedeford) is first mentioned in 571, when Cuthwulf defeated the Britons here. It subsequently became a Danish borough, which in 914 was captured by Edward the Elder. In Domesday, as the county town, it was entered apart from the rest of the shire, and was assessed at half a hundred for the host and for ship service. The prescriptive borough received its first charter from Henry II., who gave the town to the burgesses to hold at a fee-farm rent of £40 in lieu of all service. The privileges included a gild-merchant, all tolls, and liberties and laws in common with the citizens of Oxford. This charter was confirmed by successive sovereigns down to Charles II. During the 15th century, owing to the rise of other market towns, Bedford became less prosperous, and the fee-farm rent was finally reduced to £20 by charter of Henry VII. Henry VIII. granted a November fair to St Leonard's hospital, which was still held in the 19th century at St Leonard's farm, the site of the hospital. Mary granted two fairs, one in Lent and one on the Feast of the Conception, and also a weekly market.

A 17th century pamphlet on river navigation in Bedfordshire mentions the trade which Bedford carried on in coal, brought by the Ouse from Lynn and Yarmouth. The town was also one of the earliest centres of the lace trade, to the success of which French refugees in the 17th and 18th centuries largely contributed.

Bedford was represented in the parliament of 1295, and after that date two members were returned regularly, until by the Redistribution of Seats Act in 1885 Bedford lost one of its members. The unlimited power of creating freemen, an inherent right of the borough, led to great abuse, noticeably in 1769 when 500 freemen' were created to support the political interest of Sir Robert Barnard, afterwards recorder of the borough.

Bedford castle, of which mention is first heard during Stephen's reign (1136), was destroyed by order of Henry III. in 1224. The mound marking its site is famous as a bowling-green.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary


Proper noun




  1. The county town of Bedfordshire, England
  2. A truck manufactured by the Bedford company, a subsidiary company of Vauxhall Motors.
  3. Extremely affluent Westchester County suburb of New York.

Simple English

Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, England. It has a population of more than 79.000 people (100.000 if the people living in Kempston are included). Many people also live in the smaller villages around Bedford.



The town of Bedford is about 1000 years old. There was a castle there, but it was destroyed in 1224. There is a small hill now in the place where the castle used to be. It overlooks the river Ouse which flows through the town. Bedford was a market town from the early Middle Ages. It was given its borough charter in 1166 by Henry II.


During the last century many people moved to Bedford because there were good schools there. There are five public schools which are governed by the Harpur Trust, as well as several state schools and some smaller private schools. Many students study at the University of Bedfordshire, which is now based in Bedford and Luton. Hundreds of school children can take part in Bedfordshire Youth Music courses during the holidays. There is also a Bedfordshire Youth Theatre.

Features and events

File:Bedford Bridge from Antiquities of England by (1783) by Francis
Bedford Bridge in 1783. This version of the bridge was replaced in 1813.

The town of Bedford has some nice places to walk along the banks of the River Great Ouse. The banks of the river by the town centre are called The Embankment. There are nice gardens there and two bridges for pedestrians only. The newer of these bridges is known as the “Butterfly Bridge” because it is shaped like a butterfly.

Every two years, an event called Bedford River Festival is held near the river in Bedford during early July. The event lasts for two days. About 250,000 people go there to enjoy all the events, the sports, food, funfairs and live music.

The big church in the centre of the town is called St Paul’s Church. It stands in St Paul’s Square. It has a tall spire which can be seen from a long way away. There was a church there in 1066. The present church was started in the early 13th century and gradually more parts were added. The tower and spire were completely rebuilt in the 1860s. John Bunyan and John Wesley both preached in the church. There is a stained glass window dedicated to Sir William Harpur who gave his money to charity in the 16th century allowing almshouses and schools to be built in Bedford.

There are museums in Bedford. The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery is in the Victorian home of the Higgins family who used to be brewers. A modern building next to it has paintings, ceramics, glass and lace. The Bedford Museum is next door and has things from Bedford’s history. Just round the corner is the John Bunyan museum showing things about Bedford’s most famous writer.

Hospitals and services

Bedford Hospital is split between two sites in the town. It serves people from the whole of Mid Bedford. Many discussions are still taking place about the future of the hospital and how it should be organized.

There are many shops in the town centre, as well as out-of-town shopping areas. The Aspects Leisure Centre has cinemas and other amusements. It is near the opposite end of the Embankment from the town centre.

Music and Drama

[[File:|thumb|Bedford town centre]] There is a lot of opportunity to hear music in Bedford. Many local musicians play in the Bedfordshire Symphony Orchestra and the Bedford Sinfonia. They give their concerts in the Corn Exchange in St Paul’s Square, where one can also hear concerts given by the famous professional Philharmonia Orchestra who give a series of concerts during the year. There are several amateur choirs including the large Bedford Choral Society and the chamber choirs Cantamus and Concord Singers. The Bedford Music Club organizes chamber concerts on Thursdays during the year, and there are many other musical events including lunch hour concerts at St Paul’s Church. In August the 'Proms In The Park' takes place in Bedford Park. It is given by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and attracts thousands of people who take rugs and food and sit on the grass to listen to the music.

Although Bedford has no large theatre there are many amateur groups such as the Bedford Dramatic Club, Swan Theatre Company, Bedford Marionettes who perform in several places such as the Bowen West Theatre and Civic Theatre. There are also several local bands.


As Bedford has a river there is a lot of opportunity for rowing. Bedford has two rugby union teams called Bedford Blues and Bedford Athletic. Bedford Blues are now in the second tier of English rugby, although they have previously been in the top division. Bedford has an athletic stadium.


Bedford’s main railway station is in Midland Road. Capital Connect run trains from Bedford to Brighton passing through London, and Midland Main Line have trains that go from London, passing through Bedford on their way to Leeds. There are also trains to Bletchley in Milton Keynes, and the Marston Vale Line which also stops at Bedford St Johns railway station.

There is a lot of traffic in Bedford as several roads spread out from the centre of the town in all directions. The M1 is 8 miles to the west, and the Al is about the same distance to the east. Bedford now has a by-pass, but it is not yet a complete ring road. The section between the A428 and A6 is not yet built.

Buses from Bedford travel to Northampton, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Oxford and other towns in the region. Most of these services depart from the main bus station in the town. This bus station is soon going to be rebuilt.


A map of Bedford and Kempston

There are many Italian people living in Bedford. Many of them came from the 1950s onwards to work at the brickworks of the London Brick Company. There are many Italian bars and restaurants and social clubs as well as a church and a vice-consulate. Many of the people who came in the 1950s now have grandchildren growing up in Bedford, and many of them have married people from other cultures. More recently many people have immigrated from other parts of the world such as South Asia and Eastern Europe (particularly in the last few years), Greece, Cyprus, the Middle East and Africa. Many languages are spoken in Bedford including Italian, Punjabi, Turkish, Polish, Portuguese, Cantonese and Mandarin Chinese. There is a big, new Sikh temple in the district known as Queen’s Park.

Twinned towns

Bedford is twinned with:

Relationship with nearby towns and villages

The town of Kempston has now grown to be part of Bedford. The villages in the Borough of Bedford with populations of more than 2,000 are Biddenham, Bromham, Clapham, Elstow, Oakley, Sharnbrook, Shortstown, Wilstead, and Wootton. There are also many smaller villages in the borough. The villages in the borough are popular with commuters to Bedford, and also with people who commute to Milton Keynes, which is a bigger employment centre than Bedford, and to London.

Famous Bedfordians

[[File:|thumb|right|200|John Bunyan's statue at the corner of the High Street and St Peter's street.]]

The most famous person from Bedford was John Bunyan, the author of The Pilgrim's Progress. He was born in Harrowden, near Elstow which is just outside Bedford. Later he lived in St Cuthbert Street, which is the next street east parallel to the High Street, but was still just at the edge of Bedford at that time. Bunyan Meeting is a church on the site where Bunyan, at the end of his life, was allowed to have a barn to preach. It is joined to the Bunyan Museum. There is a statue of Bunyan on the corner of the High Street by Bedford School.

Other famous Bedfordians include Sir William Harpur, the philanthropist, John Howard, the prison reformer, Charles Wells, founder of Charles Wells Brewery, a company which is still in the town, Ronnie Barker the comedian and John Le Mesurier, actor and comedian. People who went to school in Bedford include the politician Paddy Ashdown, the cricketer Alastair Cook, the playwright Christopher Fry and the athlete Paula Radcliffe.

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