Bedford

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
For the larger local government district, see Borough of Bedford. For other uses, see Bedford (disambiguation).
Bedford
BedfordTownBridgeNightJan2007.jpg
Bedford Town Bridge at night
Bedford is located in Bedfordshire
Bedford
Bedford
 Bedford shown within Bedfordshire
Population 80,000 
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

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

Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, in the East of England. It is the administrative centre for the wider Borough of Bedford. According to the former Bedfordshire County Council's estimates, the town had a population of 80,000 in mid-2005, with 19,720 in the adjacent town of Kempston. The Bedford Built-up Area which includes Kempston, Elstow and Biddenham forms the 69th largest Urban Area in England and Wales with a population of 106,940.[1] The wider borough, including a rural area, had a population of 153,000.[citation needed]

History[edit]

The name of the town is thought to derive from the name of a Saxon chief called Beda,[2] and a ford crossing the River Great Ouse. 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.[3] In 886 it became a boundary town separating Wessex and Danelaw.[4][5] 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.[6]

Bedford traces its borough charter in 1166 by Henry II[7] 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 16th century Bedford and much of Bedfordshire became one of the main centres of England's lace industry, and lace continued to be an important industry in Bedford until the early 20th century.

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[edit]

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 current 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 the rest (and majority) of Bedford is an unparished area.

Bedford is served by Bedfordshire Police. The Police and Crime Commissioner of that force is Olly Martins.

Bedford forms part of the Bedford constituency, represented in the House of Commons of the United Kingdom Parliament. The current Member of Parliament (MP) for Bedford is Richard Fuller, who is a member of the Conservative Party.

Geography[edit]

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, Renhold and Ravensden. Wixams is a new town which is being developed to the south of Bedford. 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, London and towns in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire.

Nearby small towns include Ampthill, Biggleswade, Flitwick, and Sandy, all of which are in Central Bedfordshire as well as Rushden and St Neots in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire respectively. 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.

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[edit]

As with the rest of the United Kingdom, Bedford has a maritime climate, with a limited range of temperatures, and generally even rainfall throughout the year. The nearest met office weather station to Bedford is Bedford (Thurleigh) airport, about 6.5 miles north of Bedford town centre at an elevation of 85 metres. Since 1980, temperature extremes at the site have ranged from 35.9 °C[11] in August 2003 and 35.3 °C[12] during July 2006 down to −15.3 °C[13] in January 1982. However, such extremes would likely be superseded if longer term records were available – Historically, the nearest weather station to Bedford was Cardington about 2.4 miles south south east of the town centre with an elevation of 30 metres. This location recorded a minimum of −18.3 °C[14] during January 1963.

Rainfall averages around 585mm a year, with an excess of 1mm falling on 109 days.

Sunshine at around 1500 hours a year is typical of inland areas of southern-central England.

Climate data for Bedford (Thurleigh) 85m, 1971–2000
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 6.4
(43.5)
6.9
(44.4)
9.7
(49.5)
12.0
(53.6)
15.7
(60.3)
18.6
(65.5)
21.5
(70.7)
21.5
(70.7)
18.2
(64.8)
14.0
(57.2)
9.5
(49.1)
7.2
(45)
13.5
(56.3)
Average low °C (°F) 0.8
(33.4)
0.6
(33.1)
2.3
(36.1)
3.6
(38.5)
6.2
(43.2)
9.3
(48.7)
11.5
(52.7)
11.6
(52.9)
9.7
(49.5)
6.6
(43.9)
3.3
(37.9)
1.8
(35.2)
5.6
(42.1)
Precipitation mm (inches) 48.4
(1.906)
36.6
(1.441)
43.5
(1.713)
47.2
(1.858)
45.3
(1.783)
56.9
(2.24)
44.7
(1.76)
48.6
(1.913)
53.6
(2.11)
56.8
(2.236)
49.0
(1.929)
53.8
(2.118)
584.4
(23.008)
Mean monthly 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: [15]

Demography[edit]

Bedford is home to one of the largest concentrations of Italian immigrants in the United Kingdom. According to the 2001 census, almost 30% of Bedford's population were 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.[16] 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.[17]

In addition to Italian immigrants, Bedford has also been the recipient of significant immigration from South Asia (8.1% of Bedford's population;[18] Indians began arriving from the late 1950s onwards from the Punjab area & many worked at The London Brick Company), Eastern Europe (particularly in the 2000s), Greece, Cyprus, the Middle East and Africa (3% of Bedford's population is of Sub-Saharan descent[18]), making it one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse towns in the United Kingdom in proportion to its size.[19]

Landmarks[edit]

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 Road.[20] The memorial was designed in 1921 by the sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger and depicts a Knight vanquishing a dragon.[21] The inscription reads

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.

Just outside the town lie the Cardington Airship hangars. The hangars have been used to film scenes for movies such as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight,[22] and Inception.[23] The Hangars can be seen from the Bedford Bypass.

A panoramic view looking over a town.
View of the Bedford skyline, taken from Renhold in 2013.

Transportation[edit]

Main article: Transport in Bedford

Transport in Bedford provides links between the town and other parts of England. Road access to the town is provided by the A6 road. The town is served by two railway stations and a network of bus services.

Education[edit]

Unlike most of England, Bedford Borough operates a three-tier education system in some of the area, 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.[24] On 17 November 2009, borough councillors voted 19 to 17 in favour of a two tier system, which would then be phased in. However, following the defeat of the Labour Government in 2010, the new coalition government announced that the funding necessary for the switch to a two-tier system would no longer be available. As a result, the switch is now proceeding on school by school basis where council funds allow, as national funding was due to cover most of the cost. Bedford Academy, Bedford Free School, Mark Rutherford School and St Thomas More Catholic School are all secondary schools, while Biddenham Upper School is the last remaining upper school in the town.

Bedford is home to four private 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 School (boys and girls aged 12 months to 9 years), 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[edit]

The Guru Nanak Gurdwara in Queens Park

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 four mosques located in the town, as well as the largest Sikh temple in the United Kingdom outside London. Bedford also has Guru Ravidass and Valmiki temples.

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,[25] based in Luton, meets in Bedford once a month for the town's 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, and is the original location of the Garden of Eden.[26]

Culture[edit]

Bedford Corn Exchange

The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford is housed in the recreated Victorian home of the Higgins family of Victorian brewers and in a modern extension. The museum has local history collections, while the galleries have notable collections of watercolours, prints and drawings, ceramics, glass and lace.


The Panacea Museum.This museum tells the story of the Panacea Society – a remarkable religious community formed in the early twentieth century. The Society was founded in 1919 by Mabel Barltrop, a 53-year-old widow who lived in Bedford. The Panacea Museum is in ‘Castleside’ 9 Newnham Avenue Road, Bedford MK40 3NS, a beautiful Victorian house that was part of the community’s headquarters. It tells the story of the Panacea Society and other similar religious groups. The museum also incorporates several other buildings, set within the gardens, that formed the original community’s ‘campus’. In the main museum building you can discover how the society was formed, what they believed and how they lived. You can also find out about Joanna Southcott and her sealed box of prophecies and why the Panacea Society campaigned tirelessly for the box to be opened. On the far side of the museum gardens you can visit No. 12 Albany Road – the home of Mabel Barltrop, the founder of the Panacea Society. From around 1904, this was the Barltrop family home, where Mabel lived with her husband Arthur, and their four children. Later the house became a central location in the Society, as Mabel, who later became known as Octavia to her followers, remained in residence until her death in 1934. Today you can see this building as it appeared in the 1930s. The Chapel is where members of the Panacea Society gathered for religious worship from 1920 to the 1990s. Inside this building you can learn more about the Society’s daily services and about their international healing ministry which they believed could provide a cure for all illnesses. To the North of the Chapel is a small building known as the ‘Wireless Room’. In this space, community members came to listen to the radio. The room was also used for games such as darts, cards and board games. Finally the gardens that house the Panacea buildings were of great importance to members of the society, as they believed these gardens stood on the site of the original Garden of Eden.


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 venue has been host to many great entertainers such as Glenn Miller and Bob Hope. 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 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 United Kingdom 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 United Kingdom, 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[edit]

There is a long standing sporting heritage in Bedford Borough with long established rugby and football clubs. Bedford has four rugby union teams called Bedford Blues, Bedford Queens, 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. Bedford Blues RFC’s Goldington Road ground holds in the region of 5000 spectators with an average gate of 3000 for home games.

Taking into account the size of its overall urban area, Bedford 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.

Bedford rowing club boathouse.

Rowing is also a major part of the sports scene with a number of regatta events hosted throughout the year from February through to October; the most significant of these being Bedford Regatta, which in terms of numbers of crews participating is the second largest in the country. It was on Bedford’s River Great Ouse that Olympic rower, Tim Foster, honed his skills as a member of Star Club; indeed the Borough has produced many other champions of sport past and present including Stephanie Cook, Gail Emms, Liz Yelling and Paula Radcliffe who is Life Vice President of Bedford & County Athletic Club

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 United Kingdom. CASC is also the venue each year for the United Kingdom's National Inter Clubs Slalom Finals, the largest canoe slalom event by participation in the United Kingdom. Etienne Stott - 2012 Olympic Gold Medallist's Club.

Bedford and the surrounding borough was a major host of national teams preparing for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. The Maldives National Olympic Committee based its competing athletes in the town and borough, while Paralympic athletes from Angola, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, The Gambia, Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Jamaica, Lesotho, Morocco, Niger, Pakistan, Senegal, Tunisia and Uganda were also be based in the area. With the exception of Weymouth (which hosted various sailing events) Bedford accommodated more Olympic teams in 2012 than any other town or borough in the United Kingdom.[28]

It is also home to the United Kingdom's largest outdoor fitness company, British Military Fitness which operates in Bedford Park.

Filmography[edit]

  • The popular BBC TV series Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em was filmed in and around Bedford during the 1970s.[29]
  • In the 2005 motion picture Batman Begins scenes were filmed at the Cardington Sheds near 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.[citation needed]
  • 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".[citation needed]

Public services[edit]

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 Hospital's 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. Bedford's fire station is in the Newnham area of the town, and is staffed 24 hours a day.

Twinned towns[edit]

Bedford is twinned with:

Notable people[edit]

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[edit]

People associated with Bedford[edit]

People schooled in Bedford[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "2011 Census - Built-up areas". ONS. Retrieved 9 August 2013. 
  2. ^ "Brief History of Bedford". Bedford Borough Council. Retrieved 29 March 2011. 
  3. ^ Simon Keynes, "Cynethryth", in Lapidge, Encyclopaedia of Anglo-Saxon England, p. 133.
  4. ^ "Bedford Timeline, Earliest Times – 1800". Bedfordshire Libraries. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  5. ^ Whitelock, Dorothy; Douglas, David C. (ed) (1979). English Historical Documents c. 500–1042 (2nd edition). Routledge. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  6. ^ "Bedford Castle". CastleUK. Archived from the original on 5 March 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  7. ^ "Brief History of Bedford". Bedford Borough Council. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  8. ^ "John Bunyan (1628–1688)". The Bunyan Press. Retrieved 10 February 2008. [dead link]
  9. ^ "1849 & Friday 1 March 1850". Bedford Corn Exchange. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  10. ^ "Bedford Borough records introduction". Bedfordshire County Council. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  11. ^ "2003 Maximum". Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "2006 Maximum". Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "1982 Minimum". Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  14. ^ "1963 Minimum". Retrieved 3 March 2011. 
  15. ^ "Bedford 1971–2000 averages". Met Office. July 2011. Retrieved 16 June 2008. 
  16. ^ "Bedford's Italian question". BBC – Legacies. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  17. ^ "Bedford Italian Community". Bedfordshire Libraries. Archived from the original on 19 January 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  18. ^ a b Official figures from the Office for National Statistics
  19. ^ "Brief History of Bedford Town Centre". BedfordBID. Retrieved 24 June 2010. 
  20. ^ 52°08′05″N 0°27′30″W / 52.134654°N 0.458215°W / 52.134654; -0.458215
  21. ^ Daniel Stannard/Bedfordshire County Council (2007). "The First World War Memorial, Bedford". Bedfordshire Buildings and Monuments. Archived from the original on 27 November 2007. Retrieved 4 November 2007. 
  22. ^ "Film Locations". 
  23. ^ "Inception to Film at the Airship Shed in Bedfordshire". 
  24. ^ "Two-tier school proposal rejected". BBC News. 13 July 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2008. 
  25. ^ http://www.bedfordshire-ps.org.uk/
  26. ^ "The Panacea Society". Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  27. ^ "River Great Ouse". Bedford Borough Council. Archived from the original on 6 March 2008. Retrieved 29 January 2008. 
  28. ^ http://www.bedford.gov.uk/council_and_democracy/council_news/archived_news/february_2012/on_your_marks.aspx
  29. ^ "Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em" at Internet Movie Database http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0069634/
  30. ^ "Who's Who in the Cinema", The Movie (Orbis Publishing 1981), volume 13, p. 262.
  31. ^ Waymark, Janet. "‘Mallows, Charles Edward (1864–1915)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, online edn, October 2008 [1],". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press online edn,. 

External links[edit]