Bedfordshire (/ˈbɛdfərdʃər, -ʃɪər/; 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 stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
Ceremonial county
Lord LieutenantHelen Nellis
High SheriffMeryl Dolling (2019–20) [1]
Area1,235 km2 (477 sq mi)
  Ranked41st of 48
Population (mid-2018 est.)669,338
  Ranked36th of 48
Density542/km2 (1,400/sq mi)
Ethnicity86.3% White
8.3% S.Asian
2.9% Black

Districts of Bedfordshire
  1. Bedford
  2. Central Bedfordshire
  3. Luton
Members of ParliamentList of MPs
PoliceBedfordshire Police
Time zoneGreenwich Mean Time (UTC)
  Summer (DST)British Summer Time (UTC+1)

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),[2] and the county town, Bedford (106,940).[3] 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.[4] 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.[5]

Average temperatures in Bedford range from a low of 0.8 °C (33.4 °F) overnight[4] in February to a high of 22.1 °C (71.8 °F) during the day in July.[4] Record temperatures by month for Woburn follow.

Climate data for Woburn 1928-
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.0
Record low °C (°F) −20.0
Source: [6]


Police and Crime Commissioner

The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner is Kathryn Holloway who is a member of the Conservative Party.[7]

Local government

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.[8] 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.[9]

Emergency services

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.[10]

Parliamentary constituencies

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

ConstituencyMember of Parliament
Bedford Mohammad Yasin
Luton North Kelvin Hopkins
Luton South Gavin Shuker
Mid Bedfordshire Nadine Dorries
North East Bedfordshire Alistair Burt
South West Bedfordshire Andrew Selous

The present constituencies date from 1997.[11] The boundaries were slightly modified for the 2010 general election.[12]


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.

YearRegional Gross Value Added[13]Agriculture[14]Industry[15]Services[16]

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.

Traditional dishes

The "Bedfordshire clanger" is a local dish consisting of a suet crust pastry filled with meat in one end and jam in the other.

Visitor attractions

Accessible open space
Amusement/Theme Park
Country Park
English Heritage
Forestry Commission
Heritage railway
Historic House

Museum (free/not free)
National Trust


Although not a major transport destination, Bedfordshire lies on many of the main transport routes which link London to the Midlands and Northern England.


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

To these was added in 1959 the M1 motorway, the London to Leeds motorway. This has two junctions around Luton, one serving Bedford and another serving Milton Keynes. A new junction 11A was built for the new A5-M1 link to Dunstable.

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:

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.[17]


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



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 continues 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.[18]

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.[19][20] The change was due to be introduced over a five-year period and be completed in 2015.[21] However, with the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme in 2010, the borough has changed its proposals, and the switch is now proceeding on school by school basis where council funds allow.

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.

Bedford and Central Bedfordshire

Until the division into two unitary authorities in April 2009, education in the area continued to be administered by Bedfordshire County Council.

All of the two councils' upper schools offer 6th form courses (such as A Levels), though Bedford College, Central Bedfordshire College and Shuttleworth College also offer a range of further education courses. Additionally, Stella Mann College is a private college (based in Bedford), which offers a range of further education courses relating to the performing arts.[22][23]

There are a number of independent schools, many of which have links to the Harpur Trust. These are Bedford School for boys (formerly Bedford Grammar School), Bedford Modern School (co-educational), Bedford Girls' School and Pilgrims Pre-Preparatory School (co-educational).


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.

Higher education

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.

Millbrook Proving Ground

The Millbrook Proving Ground, near Junction 13 of the M1, has 70 kilometres (43 mi) of varied vehicle test tracks.[24]

Sports and leisure

Bedfordshire is home to Luton Town F.C. and Bedford Blues rugby team 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.

Bibliographical references

  • Bedfordshire Magazine (quarterly)[25]
  • Elstow Moot Hall leaflets on John Bunyan and 17th century subjects[25]
  • Guide to the Bedfordshire Record Office 1957 with supplements.[25]
  • Guide to the Russell Estate Collections Published in 1966.[25]
  • Conisbe, L. R. (1962) A Bedfordshire Bibliography (supplement, 1967)[25]
  • Dony, John (1953) A Bedfordshire Flora. Luton: Corporation of Luton Museum & Art Gallery[25]
  • Dony, John (1942) A History of the Straw Hat Industry. Luton: Gibbs, Bamforth & Co.[25]
  • Freeman, Charles (1958) Pillow Lace in the East Midlands. Luton: Luton Museum and Art Gallery[25]
  • Godber, Joyce (1969) History of Bedfordshire 1066–1888[25]
  • White, H. O. Bedfordshire Historical Record Society (published annually)[25]

See also


  1. "High Sheriff of Bedfordshire - Meryl Dolling". Central Bedforshire. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019. Retrieved 16 April 2019.
  2. UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Luton Built-up Area (E34004983)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  3. UK Census (2011). "Local Area Report – Bedford Built-up Area (E34004993)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  4. Met Office Bedford Averages 1981–2010 Archived 9 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine Archived 9 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Met Office: Easter 1998 – Heavy rainfall Archived 9 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine Archived 9 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  6. "Rohamsted Archive". era Rohamsted. July 2019. Archived from the original on 27 July 2019. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  7. Parris-Long, Adam (6 May 2016). "Olly Martins defeated as Conservative Kathryn Holloway is elected as Beds' new Police and Crime Commissioner". Bedford Today. Archived from the original on 18 May 2016. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  8. "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.
  9. "Bedford Borough and Central Bedfordshire and Libraries – About Your Library – Bedfordshire's Virtual Library". Archived from the original on 17 May 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  10. "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.
  11. "The Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1995". Office of Public Sector Information. 1995. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  12. "The Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 2007". Office of Public Sector Information. 2007. Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  13. Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  14. includes hunting and forestry
  15. includes energy and construction
  16. includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
  17. "Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  18. "Two-tier school proposal rejected". BBC News. 13 July 2006. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  19. "Middle schools to be abolished – Biggleswade News". Bedford Today. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  20. "'Momentous decision' for schools". BBC News. 17 November 2009. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  21. "Tiers to be shed in school restructure? – Local". Bedford Today. Archived from the original on 14 November 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  22. "Education in Bedford". Bedford Borough Council. 2004. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  23. "Education and Schools Information" (PDF). Creating Central Bedfordshire. Central Bedfordshire Council. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  24. "About Millbrook Group". Millbrook Proving Ground. Archived from the original on 7 September 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  25. Detail from a copy of History of Bedfordshire published by Bedfordshire County Council in 1969

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