Bedfordshire (/ - /,; abbreviated Beds) is a county in the East of England. It is a ceremonial county and a historic county, covered by three unitary authorities: Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, and Luton.
|Coordinates: 52°05′N 0°25′W|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Time zone||UTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)|
|Members of Parliament||List of MPs|
Bedfordshire is bordered by Cambridgeshire to the east and northeast, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the southeast and south. It is the fourteenth most densely populated county of England, with over half the population of the county living in the two largest built-up areas: Luton (258,018), and the county town, Bedford (106,940). The highest elevation point is 243 metres (797 ft) on Dunstable Downs in the Chilterns.
The first recorded use of the name in 1011 was "Bedanfordscir," meaning the shire or county of Bedford, which itself means "Beda's ford" (river crossing).
Bedfordshire was historically divided into nine hundreds: Barford, Biggleswade, Clifton, Flitt, Manshead, Redbornestoke, Stodden, Willey, Wixamtree, along with the liberty and borough of Bedford. There have been several changes to the county boundary; for example, in 1897 Kensworth and part of Caddington were transferred from Hertfordshire to Bedfordshire.
The southern end of the county is on 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.
Bedfordshire is relatively dry, being situated in the east of England. Average annual rainfall is 597.6 millimetres (23.53 in) at Bedford. October is the wettest month with 62.5 millimetres (2.46 in) and February the driest with 36.7 millimetres (1.44 in). While there is little difference from month to month there are more wet days in autumn and winter but often heavier individual falls in spring and summer, of note were the 1998 Easter floods.
Police and Crime Commissioner
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 local authority.
Policing, fire and rescue services continue to be provided on a county-wide basis, with Bedfordshire Police governed by the Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner and Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service governed members of the three councils.
|Constituency||Member of Parliament|
|Luton North||Sarah Owen|
|Luton South||Rachel Hopkins|
|Mid Bedfordshire||Nadine Dorries|
|North East Bedfordshire||Richard Fuller|
|South West Bedfordshire||Andrew Selous|
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|
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 Timber Solutions are based in Sandy, and Jordans Cereals are based in Biggleswade. EasyJet, Impellam, TUI Airways and Vauxhall Motors are all based in Luton, while Whitbread (including Costa Coffee) is based in nearby Houghton Regis. UltraVision is based in Leighton Buzzard, while Moto Hospitality is based at Toddington service station.
The "Bedfordshire clanger" is a local dish consisting of a suet crust pastry filled with meat in one end and a fruit preserve in the other. It was traditionally a farm labourers' meal, designed so as to produce no waste as well as two separate meals.
Chocolate Toothpaste is another local delicacy. A chocolate tart, Chocolate Toothpaste consists of a gritty chocolate filling (said to resemble the texture of toothpaste) within a pastry tart, commonly finished with a swirl of whipped cream on top.
|Accessible open space|
|Museum (free/not free)|
- Bedford Castle
- Bedford Corn Exchange
- Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum
- Bedford Park
- Cardington (R101 hangar)
- Chicksands Priory
- Chiltern Hills
- De Grey Mausoleum
- Dunstable Downs
- Elstow Moot Hall
- Harrold-Odell Country Park
- Houghton House
- Leighton Buzzard Light Railway
- Luton Hoo
- Luton Museum & Art Gallery
- Marston Vale Community Forest
- Mossman Collection
- Priory Country Park
- RAF Henlow
- RSPB The Lodge, Sandy
- Someries Castle
- The Shuttleworth Collection
- Stockwood Craft Museum
- Swiss Garden, Old Warden
- Wardown Park
- Waulud's Bank
- Whipsnade Wildlife Park
- Whipsnade Tree Cathedral
- Willington Dovecote & Stables
- Woburn Abbey
- Woburn Safari Park
- Woodside Farm and Wildfowl Park
- Wrest Park Gardens
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 two junctions around both Luton, with another one serving Bedford and Milton Keynes. Between these lies two other junctions in the county, with one connecting to the A5 and serving Dunstable, and the other serving the village of Flitwick. There is also one motorway service station in the county: Toddington Services.
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, with one station at Leighton Buzzard served by West Midlands Trains to London Euston and Northampton.
- The East Coast Main Line has stations at Arlesey, Biggleswade and Sandy, served by Great Northern services to King's Cross and Peterborough
- The Midland Main Line serves Luton, Luton Airport via a bus link from the station at Luton Airport Parkway and Bedford, with trains to many destinations operated by East Midlands Railway and Thameslink. Intermediate stations at Flitwick, Harlington and Leagrave are served by Thameslink.
There are London North Western rural services also running between Bedford and Bletchley along the Marston Vale Line.
Bedfordshire is served by a large number of taxi companies. Luton is reported to have the highest number of taxicabs per head of population in the United Kingdom with a number of firms competing for work in the town and from Luton Airport.
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.
The state education system for all of Bedfordshire used to be organised by Bedfordshire County Council. Unlike most of the United Kingdom, Bedfordshire County Council operated a three-tier education system arranged into lower, middle and upper schools, as recommended in the Plowden Report of 1967, although Luton continued to operate a two-tier system. The three-tier arrangement continued in the rest of the county, though in 2006 a vote was held with a view to moving to the two-tier model, but this was rejected.
After the 2009 structural changes to local government in England, Bedfordshire County Council was abolished, and its responsibilities for education were passed to Bedford Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council.
Bedford Borough Council voted in November 2009 to change to the two-tier model in its area. The change was due to be introduced over a five-year period and be completed in 2015. However, with the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme in 2010, the borough changed its proposals, and the switch proceeded on school by school basis where council funds allowed. However as of 2020 all of Bedford Borough as a two-tier education structure apart from in the Marston Vale area (one upper school remains).
Most of the secondary schools in the area offer sixth form courses (such as A Levels), though Bedford College and The Bedford Sixth Form also offer a range of further education courses. Additionally, Stella Mann College is a private college which offers a range of further education courses relating to the performing arts.
There are a number of independent schools, many of which have links to the Harpur Trust. These include Bedford School, Bedford Modern School and Bedford Girls' School.
In Central Bedfordshire, the school systems in Dunstable and Sandy have been re-organised into the two-tier model in response to parent and school demand, but elsewhere in the authority the three-tier model continues. Plans for the construction of new settlements in Marston Vale have included lower, middle and upper schools.
Luton also operates a three-tier education system, though its organisation of infant, junior and high schools mirrors the traditional transfer age into secondary education of 11 years. However, most of Luton's high schools do not offer sixth-form education. Instead, this is handled by Luton Sixth Form College, though Barnfield College and Cardinal Newman Catholic School also offer a range of further education courses.
There are two universities based in the county – the University of Bedfordshire and Cranfield University. These institutions attract students from all over the UK and abroad, as well as from Bedfordshire.
Cardington airship sheds
The enormous Cardington airship sheds are situated to the south of Bedford, near the villages of Cardington and Shortstown. They were originally built for the construction of large airships during WW1. Since falling out of their intended use, one has been used for many purposes including housing film sets for 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and 'Batman Begins' and as a rehearsal space for Take That, with the other having been extensively refurbished and now accommodating Hybrid Air Vehicles, a British modern airship design and manufacturing company.
St Paul's Church Bedford
St Paul's Church, Bedford is a Church of England parish church and the Civic Church of the Borough of Bedford and the County of Bedfordshire. Located on St Paul's Square, the large medieval and later church of cathedral proportions and iconic spire dominates the town and area, exercises a ministry of welcome to thousands of visitors and pilgrims from far and wide each year, and is a focus for special commemorations and celebrations in the borough, county, region and wider community, as well as being a central venue for concerts, recitals and exhibitions. Historically, St Paul's played a key part in the life of the British nation during the Second World War as the church of the BBC.
Sports and leisure
Bedfordshire is home to Luton Town F.C., and the Ampthill RUFC and Bedford Blues rugby teams amongst other various sporting teams.
Bedfordshire boasts a 40-mile (64 km) walk traversing the county from Leighton Buzzard at the southern endpoint and Sandy, Bedfordshire/Gamlingay in southern Cambridgeshire to the east. This is called the Greensand Ridge Walk. For cyclists, a parallel route following minor country roads is also available, Greensand Cycle Way.
- Bedfordshire Magazine (quarterly)
- Elstow Moot Hall leaflets on John Bunyan and 17th century subjects
- Guide to the Bedfordshire Record Office 1957 with supplements.
- Guide to the Russell Estate Collections Published in 1966.
- Conisbe, L. R. (1962) A Bedfordshire Bibliography (supplement, 1967)
- Dony, John (1953) A Bedfordshire Flora. Luton: Corporation of Luton Museum & Art Gallery
- Dony, John (1942) A History of the Straw Hat Industry. Luton: Gibbs, Bamforth & Co.
- Freeman, Charles (1958) Pillow Lace in the East Midlands. Luton: Luton Museum and Art Gallery
- Godber, Joyce (1969) History of Bedfordshire 1066–1888
- White, H. O. Bedfordshire Historical Record Society (published annually)
- Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire
- High Sheriff of Bedfordshire
- Healthcare in Bedfordshire
- "Bedfordshire 2020/2021". High Sheriffs Association. Retrieved 11 April 2020.
- UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Luton Built-up Area (E34004983)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
- UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Bedford Built-up Area (E34004993)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
- Met Office Bedford Averages 1981–2010 Archived 9 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/averages/19812010/sites/bedford.html
- Met Office: Easter 1998 – Heavy rainfall Archived 9 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/climate/uk/interesting/easter1998/
- "Rohamsted Archive". era Rohamsted. July 2019. Archived from the original on 27 July 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
- "Festus Akinbusoye confirmed as Bedfordshire's new Police and Crime Commissioner - Bedford Independent". The Independent. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
- "The Bedfordshire (Structural Changes) Order 2008 (S.I 2008 No. 907)". Office of Public Sector Information. 27 March 2008. Archived from the original on 2 May 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
- "Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire and Libraries – About Your Library – Bedfordshire's Virtual Library". Galaxy.bedfordshire.gov.uk. Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- "The Local Government (Structural Changes) (Areas and Membership of Public Bodies in Bedfordshire and Cheshire) Order 2009 (S.I 2009 No. 119)". Office of Public Sector Information. 28 January 2009. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
- "The Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1995". Office of Public Sector Information. 1995. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
- "The Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 2007". Office of Public Sector Information. 2007. Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
- Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
- includes hunting and forestry
- includes energy and construction
- includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
- "Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust". B-mkwaterway.co.uk. Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- "Two-tier school proposal rejected". BBC News. 13 July 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
- "Middle schools to be abolished – Biggleswade News". Bedford Today. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- "'Momentous decision' for schools". BBC News. 17 November 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
- "Tiers to be shed in school restructure? – Local". Bedford Today. Archived from the original on 14 November 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
- "Education in Bedford". Bedford Borough Council. 2004. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
- "Education and Schools Information" (PDF). Creating Central Bedfordshire. Central Bedfordshire Council. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
- "About Millbrook Group". Millbrook Proving Ground. Archived from the original on 7 September 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
- Detail from a copy of History of Bedfordshire published by Bedfordshire County Council in 1969