The first known reference to a Mayor of Bedford in England was in 1264.
Prior to the Municipal Corporations Act, 1835, the Mayor of Bedford came into office on 29 September. The first Mayor of the reformed Corporation came into office on 1 January 1836, and subsequent Mayors on 9 November. After the Local Government Act, 1948, and the Local Government Act, 1972, the Mayors from 1949 onwards came into office in May. The civic Mayor was replaced by a directly elected Mayor in 2002.
Bedford held a referendum on 21 February 2002 on whether to introduce a directly elected mayor after a petition was signed by at least 5% of the electorate. The move was approved with 11,316 voting in favour and 5,357 against on a turnout of 15.5%.