Place:Bedford, Bedfordshire, England

Alt namesBedanfordasource: Canby, Historic Places (1984) I, 87
Bedcanfordasource: Canby, Historic Places (1984) I, 87
Bedefordsource: Canby, Historic Places (1984) I, 87; Domesday Book (1985) p 29
TypeCivil parish, Borough (municipal)
Coordinates52.133°N 0.483°W
Located inBedfordshire, England
See alsoBedford St. Cuthbert, Bedfordshire, Englandancient and civil parish which formed Bedford in 1934
Bedford St. John, Bedfordshire, Englandancient and civil parish which formed Bedford in 1934
Bedford St. Mary, Bedfordshire, Englandancient and civil parish which formed Bedford in 1934
Bedford St. Paul, Bedfordshire, Englandancient and civil parish which formed Bedford in 1934
Bedford St. Peter, Bedfordshire, Englandancient and civil parish which formed Bedford in 1934
Bedford District, Bedfordshire, Englandnon-metropolitan borough covering the area since 1974
source: Getty Thesaurus of Geographic Names
source: Family History Library Catalog
the text in this section is based on an article in Wikipedia

Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, England. It lies in the southern part of the wider Borough of Bedford, of which it is the administrative centre.

Bedford was founded at a ford on the River Great Ouse, and is thought to have been the burial place of Offa of Mercia. Bedford Castle was built by Henry I, although it was destroyed in 1224. Bedford was granted borough status in 1165 and has been represented in Parliament since 1265. Bedford is well-known for its large population of Italian descent. It also has an increasingly large south Asian population, especially Punjabis, and is home to the largest Sikh Gurdwara in the UK outside London.

Bedford is on the Midland Main Line, with stopping services to London and Brighton operated by Thameslink, and express services to London and the East Midlands operated by East Midlands Trains.


the text in this section is a condensation of part of an article in Wikipedia

Bedford traces its borough charter in 1166 by Henry II and elected two members to the unreformed House of Commons. It remained a small agricultural town, with wool being an important industry in the area for much of the Middle Ages. The new Bedford Castle was razed in 1224 and today only a mound remains. 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. In 1660 John Bunyan was imprisoned for 12 years in Bedford Gaol. It was here that he wrote The Pilgrim's Progress. 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. 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 was an "ancient borough" of the county of Bedfordshire and was made up of a number of ecclesiastical parishes. Five of these parishes (Bedford St. Cuthbert, Bedford St. John, Bedford St. Mary, Bedford St. Paul and Bedford St. Peter) became civil parishes early in the 19th century and continued as such until 1934 when their civic powers were transferred to the municipal borough of Bedford which at that point became a civil parish. The course of Bedford's municipal history since 1934 has been covered above.

Research Tips

  • GENUKI article on Bedford links to notes on the ancient parishes of the town as well as notes on later Church of England parishes, Roman Catholic parishes and non-conformists chapels and churches within the town.
  • A search for "Bedford" on English Jurisdictions 1851 will yield a map showing the individual ancient parishes together with details of earliest entries in the parish registers and bishops transcripts for each parish.
  • GENUKI main page for Bedfordshire which provides information on various topics covering the whole of the county, and also a link to a list of parishes. Under each parish there is a list of the settlements within it and brief description of each. This is a list of pre-1834 ancient or ecclesiastical parishes but there are suggestions as to how to find parishes set up since then. GENUKI provides references to other organizations who hold genealogical information for the local area. There is no guarantee that the website has been kept up to date and therefore the reader should check additional sources if possible.
  • Bedfordshire family history societies are listed in GENUKI.
  • The website British History Online provides three chapters of the Victoria County History Series on Bedfordshire. The first covers the religious houses of the county including the churches of the ancient parishes of Bedford; the second and third provides articles on the remaining parishes of Bedfordshire. The parishes are arranged within their "hundreds".
  • The FamilyTree Wiki has a series of pages similar to those provided by GENUKI which may have been prepared at a later date and from more recent data.
  • A Vision of Britain through Time, Bedfordshire, section "Units and Statistics" leads to analyses of population and organization of the county from about 1800 through 1974. There are pages available for all civil parishes, municipal boroughs and other administrative divisions. Descriptions provided are usually based on a gazetteer of 1870-72 which often provides brief notes on the economic basis of the settlement and significant occurences through its history.
  • These two maps indicate the boundaries between parishes, etc., but for a more detailed view of a specific area try a map from this selection. The oldest series are very clear at the third magnification offered. Comparing the map details with the GENUKI details for the same area is well worthwhile.
This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original content was at Bedford. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with WeRelate, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.