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Bedfordshire (/ˈbɛdfərdʃər/ or /ˈbɛdfərdʃɪər/; abbreviated Beds.) is a ceremonial county of historic origin in England that forms part of the East of England region.

It borders Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the south-east.

The highest elevation point is 243 metres (797 ft) on Dunstable Downs in the Chilterns.

As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the Bee Orchid as the county flower.

The traditional nickname for people from Bedfordshire is “Bedfordshire Bulldogs” or “Clangers”, this last deriving from a local dish comprising a suet crust dumpling filled with meat or jam or both.

The first recorded use of the name was in 1011 as “Bedanfordscir”, meaning the shire or county of Bedford, which itself means “Beda’s ford” (river crossing).

Bedfordshire was historically divided into the nine hundreds: Barford, Biggleswade, Clifton, Flitt, Manshead, Redbournestoke, Stodden, Willey, Wixamtree, along with the liberty and borough of Bedford. There have been several minor changes to the county boundary; for example, in 1897 Kensworth and part of Caddington were transferred from Hertfordshire to Bedfordshire.

Rank settlement Population 2001 Census Town or Village Urban Area
1 Luton 206,850 Town Luton/Dunstable Urban Area
2 Bedford 78,750 Town Bedford Urban Area
3 Dunstable 33,805 Town Luton/Dunstable Urban Area
4 Leighton Buzzard 32,753 Town Leighton Buzzard
5 Kempston 19,375 Town Bedford Urban Area
6 Houghton Regis 16,970 Town Luton/Dunstable Urban Area
7 Biggleswade 15,383 Town Biggleswade
8 Flitwick 12,700 Town Flitwick/Ampthill
9 Sandy 10,887 Town Sandy
10 Ampthill 6,767 Town Flitwick/Ampthill
11 Stotfold 6,109 Town Stotfold
12 Shefford 4,928 Town Henlow/Shefford
16 Arlesey 4,741 Town Arlesey
17 Potton 4,473 Town Potton

The southern end of the county is part of the chalk ridge known as the Chiltern Hills. The remainder is part of the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries. Most of Bedfordshire’s rocks are clays and sandstones from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, with some limestone. Local clay has been used for brick-making of Fletton style bricks in the Marston Vale. Glacial erosion of chalk has left the hard flint nodules deposited as gravel—this has been commercially extracted in the past at pits which are now lakes, at Priory Country Park, Wyboston and Felmersham. The Greensand Ridge is an escarpment across the county from near Leighton Buzzard to near Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire.

For local government purposes, Bedfordshire is divided into three unitary authorities: the boroughs of Bedford and Luton, and the District of Central Bedfordshire. Bedfordshire County Council was abolished on 1 April 2009, although the three districts continue to form a county for ceremonial functions such as lieutenancy and High Sheriff. Many services in the county, such as education and public libraries, continue to be provided jointly by Central Bedfordshire and Bedford as if they were a single unitary authority.

For elections to the House of Commons, Bedfordshire is divided into six constituencies, each returning a single member of parliament:

  • Bedford
  • Luton North
  • Luton South
  • Mid Bedfordshire
  • North East Bedfordshire
  • South West Bedfordshire

The present constituencies date from 1997. The boundaries were slightly modified for the 2010 general election.

This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added of Bedfordshire at current basic prices published (pp. 240–253) by Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of British Pounds Sterling.

Year Regional Gross Value Added Agriculture Industry Services
1995 4,109 81 1,584 2,444
2000 4,716 53 1,296 3,367
2003 5,466 52 1,311 4,102

Bedfordshire is the location of a number of notable UK and international companies who have either headquarters or major bases in the county. Autoglass, Boxclever and Charles Wells Pubs are all based in Bedford, while the Kier Group and Kingspan Off-Site are based in Sandy, and Jordans Cereals are based in Biggleswade.

The Alexon Group, Blue Arrow, EasyJet, Monarch Airlines, Thomson Airways and Vauxhall Motors are all based in Luton, while Whitbread (including Costa Coffee) is based in nearby Dunstable. UltraVision is based in Leighton Buzzard, while Moto Hospitality is based at Toddington service station.

Two of England’s six main trunk roads pass through Bedfordshire:

  • The A1 London to Edinburgh road (the Great North Road) runs close by Biggleswade and Sandy
  • The A5 London to Holyhead road (Watling Street), passes through Dunstable

To these was added in 1959 the M1 motorway, the London to Leeds motorway. This has three junctions around Luton, one serving Bedford and another serving Milton Keynes.

Former trunk roads, now local roads managed by the local highway authority include A428 running east-west through Bedford Borough, and A6 from Rushden to Luton.

Three of England’s main lines pass through Bedfordshire:

  • The West Coast Main Line has but a short section in the far west of the county. The one station at Leighton Buzzard is served by London Midland trains to London Euston and Northampton.
  • The East Coast Main Line has stations at Arlesey, Biggleswade and Sandy, served by First Capital Connect services to King’s Cross and Peterborough
  • The Midland Main Line serves Luton and Bedford with trains to many destinations operated by East Midlands Trains and First Capital Connect.

There are rural services also running between Bedford and Bletchley along the Marston Vale Line.

The River Great Ouse links Bedfordshire to the Fenland waterways. As of 2004 there are plans by the Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust to construct a canal linking the Great Ouse at Bedford to the Grand Union Canal at Milton Keynes, 14 miles (23 km) distant.

London Luton Airport has flights to many UK, European, Middle Eastern and North African destinations, operated largely but not exclusively by low-cost airlines.

The enormous Cardington Hangars are situated to the south of Bedford near the village of Cardington. They were built to house the construction of airships in WW1 and whilst one has been used for many purposes, such as a film set for Charlie and the Chocolate factory and Batman Returns and rehearsal space for Take That, the other is in severe disrepair.

Note: this page is partly based on a Wikipedia page. Text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. Where possible, text is being updated to original, fully referenced research. ‘Our photos’ means we took the photographs. The Street View and street map visuals are courtesy of Google.


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