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

Bedford
BedfordTownBridgeNightJan2007.jpg
Bedford Town Bridge at night
Bedford is located in Bedfordshire
Bedford

 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.

Contents

History

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]

Governance

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.

Geography

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.
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Climate

Climate data for Bedford
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.4
(44)
6.9
(44)
9.7
(49)
12.0
(54)
15.7
(60)
18.6
(65)
21.5
(71)
21.5
(71)
18.2
(65)
14.0
(57)
9.5
(49)
7.2
(45)
13.5
(56)
Average low °C (°F) 0.8
(33)
0.6
(33)
2.3
(36)
3.6
(38)
6.2
(43)
9.3
(49)
11.5
(53)
11.6
(53)
9.7
(49)
6.6
(44)
3.3
(38)
1.8
(35)
5.6
(42)
Precipitation mm (inches) 48.4
(1.91)
36.6
(1.44)
43.5
(1.71)
47.2
(1.86)
45.3
(1.78)
56.9
(2.24)
44.7
(1.76)
48.6
(1.91)
53.6
(2.11)
56.8
(2.24)
49.0
(1.93)
53.8
(2.12)
584.4
(23.01)
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

Demography

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]

Landmarks

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
TO BEDFORDIANS WHO DIED, MANY IN EARLY YOUTH, SOME FULL OF YEARS AND HONOUR, BUT WHO ALL ALIKE GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY.

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.

Transport

Bedford (Midland) railway station

Roads

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.

Rail

Bedford has two railway stations:

Recent developments

Western Bypass (A421 - A428)

Bedford Western Bypass
Bedforddevelopments.png
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]

Education

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.

Culture

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.

Sports

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.

Filmography

  • 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

References

  1. ^ Simon Keynes, "Cynethryth", in Lapidge, Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 133.
  2. ^ "Bedford Timeline, Earliest Times - 1800". Bedfordshire Libraries. http://www.galaxy.bedfordshire.gov.uk/webingres/bedfordshire/vlib/0.digitised_resources/bedford_digitisation_timeline_early.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  3. ^ Whitelock, Dorothy; Douglas, David C. (ed) (1979). English Historical Documents c. 500-1042 (2nd edition). Routledge. http://books.google.com/books?id=EUSqIR2qaaIC&pg=PA416&dq=bedford+886+danes&sig=JmxDJNcfoi60LftEpzKr097ZxuA. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  4. ^ "Bedford Castle". CastleUK. http://www.castleuk.net/castle_lists_midlands/153/bedfordcastle.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  5. ^ "Brief History of Bedford". Bedford Borough Council. http://www.bedford.gov.uk/Default.aspx/Web/BriefHistoryofBedford. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  6. ^ "The Huguenot Influence". The Cowper and Newton Museum. http://www.mkheritage.co.uk/cnm/lace/lacehtml/huguenot.html. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  7. ^ "Lacemaking in Bedfordshire - Introduction". Bedford Borough Council. http://www.bedford.gov.uk/Default.aspx/Web/AragonLacemakers. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 
  8. ^ "John Bunyan (1628-1688)". The Bunyan Press. http://www.bunyanpress.co.uk/jbunyan.htm. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  9. ^ "1849 & Friday 1 March 1850". Bedford Corn Exchange. http://www.bedfordcornexchange.co.uk/. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  10. ^ "Bedford Borough records introduction". Bedfordshire County Council. http://www.bedfordshire.gov.uk/CommunityAndLiving/ArchivesAndRecordOffice/GuidesToCollections/BedfordBoroughRecordsIntroduction.aspx. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  11. ^ "Bedford 1971-2000 averages". Met Office. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/averages/19712000/sites/bedford.html. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  12. ^ "Bedford's Italian question". BBC - Legacies. http://www.bbc.co.uk/legacies/immig_emig/england/beds_herts_bucks/article_1.shtml. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  13. ^ "Bedford Italian Community". Bedfordshire Libraries. http://www.galaxy.bedfordshire.gov.uk/webingres/bedfordshire/vlib/0.digitised_resources/bedford_digitisation_az_italiancommunity.htm. 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. http://www.galaxy.bedfordshire.gov.uk/webingres/bedfordshire/vlib/0.digitised_resources/bedfordshire_buildings.pdf. Retrieved 2007-11-04. 
  17. ^ "A421 Bedford to M1 Junction 13". Highways Agency. http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/projects/4584.aspx. Retrieved 2006-08-18. 
  18. ^ "A421 Great Barford Bypass". Highways Agency. http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/projects/4588.aspx. Retrieved 2006-08-18. 
  19. ^ a b c Bedford Today - Branston Way opens at last
  20. ^ "Park & Ride in Bedfordshire". Bedfordshire County Council. http://www.bedfordshire.gov.uk/TransportAndStreets/RoadImprovements/ParkAndRide.aspx. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  21. ^ "Bedford's £150 million revamp gets the green light". Bedford Today. http://www.bedfordtoday.co.uk/bed-news/Bedford39s-150-million-revamp-gets.3230776.jp. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  22. ^ "Timetables". Cedar Coaches. http://www.cedarcoaches.co.uk/timetables.html. Retrieved 2008-02-23. 
  23. ^ "Bedford Western Bypass Traffic Management Proposals". http://www.bedfordshire.gov.uk/Resources/PDF/Consultations/Bedford%20Western%20Bypass.pdf. Retrieved 2009-10-28. 
  24. ^ "Scheme Progress". Highways Agency. http://www.highways.gov.uk/roads/projects/20484.aspx. 
  25. ^ "Back The Bypass". Bedford Borough Council. http://www.forms.bedford.gov.uk/bypass/. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  26. ^ "Two-tier school proposal rejected". BBC News. 2006-07-13. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/beds/bucks/herts/5173424.stm. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  27. ^ "River Great Ouse". Bedford Borough Council. http://www.bedford.gov.uk/Default.aspx/Web/RiverGreatOuse. Retrieved 2008-01-29. 

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