Bedford

Street MapOur Photos

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 Urban Area which includes Kempston, Elstow and Biddenham forms the 72nd largest Urban Area in the UK with a population of 101,928. The wider borough, including a rural area, had a population of 153,000.

The name of the town is thought to derive from the name of a Saxon chief called Beda, and a ford crossing the River Great Ouse. Bedford was a market town for the surrounding agricultural region from the early Middle Ages.The Anglo-Saxon King Offa of Mercia was buried in the town in 796. In 886 it became a boundary town separating Wessex and Danelaw. 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.

Bedford traces its borough charter in 1166 by Henry II 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.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 Flemingsand then later the Huguenots emigrating from Europe to settle in the town and surrounding county. Lace continued to be an important industry in Bedford up 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.

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, and the first drains and sewers were dug in 1864.

Bedford is the largest settlement in Borough of Bedford.

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.

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 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.

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. 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.[19]

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

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. The memorial was designed in 1921 by the sculptor Charles Sargeant Jagger and depicts a Knight vanquishing a dragon.

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.

No reviews yet.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.