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.
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 (236,000) and the county town, Bedford (102,000). The highest elevation point is 243 metres (797 ft) on Dunstable Downs in the Chilterns.
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Lord Lieutenant||Helen Nellis|
|High Sheriff||Meryl Dolling (2019–20) |
|Area||1,235 km2 (477 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||41st of 48|
|Population (mid-2017 est.)||664,600|
|• Ranked||36th of 48|
|Density||537/km2 (1,390/sq mi)|
Districts of Bedfordshire
|Members of Parliament||List of MPs|
|Time zone||Greenwich Mean Time (UTC)|
|• Summer (DST)||British Summer Time (UTC+1)|
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), 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.
Average temperatures in Bedford range from a low of 0.8 °C (33.4 °F) overnight in February to a high of 22.1 °C (71.8 °F) during the day in July. In the last 20 years the highest temperature recorded was 35.9 °C (96.6 °F). The lowest temperature on record in Bedfordshire is −20.6 °C (−5.1 °F) at Woburn on 25 February 1947.
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 and Luton Fire and Rescue Service governed members of the three councils.
|Constituency||Member of Parliament|
|Luton North||Kelvin Hopkins|
|Luton South||Gavin Shuker|
|Mid Bedfordshire||Nadine Dorries|
|North East Bedfordshire||Alistair Burt|
|South West Bedfordshire||Andrew Selous|
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.
|Accessible open space|
|Museum (free/not free)|
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:
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Ampthill is a town and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England, between Bedford and Luton, with a population of about 14,000. It is administered by Central Bedfordshire Council. A regular market has taken place on Thursdays for centuries.Bedford
Bedford is the county town of Bedfordshire, England. The town has an estimated (2017) population of 87,590, whereas the Borough of Bedford had an estimated population of 169,912.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. It is well known for its large population of Italian descent.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.Bedfordshire County Cricket Club
Bedfordshire County Cricket Club is one of twenty minor county clubs within the domestic cricket structure of England and Wales. It represents the historic county of Bedfordshire.
The team is currently a member of the Minor Counties Championship Eastern Division and plays in the MCCA Knockout Trophy. Bedfordshire played List A matches occasionally from 1967 until 2005 but is not classified as a List A team per se.Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service
Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service is the fire and rescue service for the ceremonial county of Bedfordshire, including unitary authorities of Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, and Luton.
Bedfordshire Fire Brigade was recreated in 1947 after the disbanding of the National Fire Service. Luton began operating an independent brigade when it became a county borough in 1964. In 1974, the Luton brigade was re-absorbed into Bedfordshire, which was renamed Bedfordshire Fire Service. It was later renamed to Bedfordshire & Luton Fire and Rescue Service in 1997, on the same day that Luton became a unitary authority. This reflected that Luton was no longer in the administrative county of Bedfordshire, though Luton remained in the ceremonial county. The brigade changed to its current name in 2012, three years after the administrative county was abolished and divided into two unitary authorities.Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service currently employ more than 550 staff on a variety of conditions of service. These include Firefighters on the Wholetime shift system; Firefighters on the Retained Duty System; Fire Officers on the Flexible Duty System; Fire Control Operators and support staff.
The county's control room was due to move into a regional control centre in Cambridge in 2011 as part of the FiReControl project.The Firefighters currently working at the county's five Wholetime stations are the first in the country to work 24-hour shifts.Bedfordshire Police
Bedfordshire Police, is the territorial police force responsible for policing the ceremonial county of Bedfordshire in England, which includes the unitary authorities of Bedford, Central Bedfordshire and Luton. Its headquarters are in Kempston, Bedfordshire.
As of September 2017, the force had a workforce of 1,136 police officers, 859 police staff, 63 police community support officers, 60 designated officers and 195 special constables. In terms of officer numbers, it is the 8th smallest police force in the United Kingdom with the 5th smallest geographic area of responsibility.Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment
The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment was the final title of a line infantry regiment of the British Army that was originally formed in 1688. After centuries of service in many small conflicts and wars, including both the First and Second World Wars, the regiment was amalgamated with the Essex Regiment in 1958 to form the 3rd East Anglian Regiment (16th/44th Foot). However, this was short-lived and again was amalgamated, in 1964, with the 1st East Anglian Regiment (Royal Norfolk and Suffolk) and 2nd East Anglian Regiment (Duchess of Gloucester's Own Royal Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire), and the Royal Leicestershire Regiment to form the present Royal Anglian Regiment.Biggleswade
Biggleswade is a market town and civil parish located on the River Ivel in Bedfordshire, England. It is growing in population mainly because of good transport links along the A1 road between London and the North, and via Biggleswade railway station on the East Coast Main Line). New housing developments are appearing as Biggleswade continues to expand as a commuter town.Borough of Bedford
Bedford is a unitary authority area with borough status in the ceremonial county of Bedfordshire, England. Its council is based at Bedford, the county town of Bedfordshire. The borough contains one large urban area, the 71st largest in the United Kingdom that comprises Bedford and the adjacent town of Kempston, surrounded by a rural area with many villages. 75% of the borough's population live in the Bedford Urban Area and the five large villages which surround it, which makes up slightly less than 6% of the total land area of the Borough.
The borough is also the location of the Wixams new town development, which received its first residents in 2009.Central Bedfordshire
Central Bedfordshire is a unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of Bedfordshire, England. It was created from the merger of Mid Bedfordshire and South Bedfordshire District Councils on 1 April 2009. With a budget of £500m the unitary council provides over a hundred services to a quarter of a million people, and is responsible for schools, social services, rubbish collection, roads, planning, leisure centres, libraries, care homes and more.Cranfield
Cranfield is a village and civil parish in north west Bedfordshire, England, between Bedford and Milton Keynes. It had a population of 4,909 in 2001, increasing to 5,369 at the 2011 Census. and is in Central Bedfordshire District.
The hamlet of Bourne End is located just north of Cranfield, and is part of the civil parish. Wharley End was a separate settlement, but now forms the northern part of Cranfield village, by the university.Dunstable
Dunstable ( DUN-stə-bəl) is a market town and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England. It lies on the eastward tail spurs of the Chiltern Hills, 30 miles (50 kilometres) north of London. These geographical features form several steep chalk escarpments most noticeable when approaching Dunstable from the north. Dunstable is the largest settlement in Central Bedfordshire and third largest in Bedfordshire behind Luton and Bedford. Along with Houghton Regis and the much larger town of Luton it forms the westernmost part of the Luton/Dunstable Urban Area.Leighton Buzzard
Leighton Buzzard ( LAY-tən BUZ-ərd) is a town in Bedfordshire, England, near the Chiltern Hills and lying between Luton and Milton Keynes. It adjoins Linslade and the name Leighton Linslade is sometimes used to refer to the combination of the two towns; parts of this article also apply to Linslade as well as Leedon.
For local government purposes, the town is part of the Central Bedfordshire district and is administered jointly with Linslade as the civil parish of Leighton-Linslade.List of places in Bedfordshire
Map of places in Bedfordshire compiled from this list
See the list of places in England for places in other counties.
This is a list of all the towns and villages in the county of Bedfordshire. See the List of Bedfordshire settlements by population for a list sorted by population.Luton
Luton ( (listen)) is a large town, borough and unitary authority area of Bedfordshire, in the East of England. It has a population of 214,700 (mid-2017 est.) and is one of the most populous towns without city status in the United Kingdom. The town is situated on the River Lea, about 30 miles (50 km) northwest of London. Earliest settlements in the Luton area can be traced back over 250,000 years, but the town's foundation dates to the sixth century as a Saxon outpost on the River Lea, from which Luton derives its name. Luton is recorded in the Domesday Book as Loitone and Lintone and one of the largest churches in Bedfordshire, St Mary's Church, was built in the 12th century. There are local museums which explore Luton's history in Wardown Park and Stockwood Park.Luton was for many years famous for hatmaking, and also had a large Vauxhall Motors factory. Car production at the plant began in 1905 and continued until 2002. Production of commercial vehicles continues, and the head office of Vauxhall Motors is still in the town. London Luton Airport opened in 1938, and is now one of Britain's major airports, with three railway stations also in the town. The University of Bedfordshire was created from a merger with the University of Luton, and two of its campuses are in Luton.Luton Town Football Club, nicknamed "the Hatters" due to the town's connection to hatmaking, has had several spells in the top flight of the English league as well as a Football League Cup triumph in 1988. They play at Kenilworth Road, their home since 1905, and planning permission for a new larger stadium was approved in 2019. Luton International Carnival, the largest one-day carnival in Europe, is held on the day before the last Monday in May, and the Saint Patrick's festival is held on the weekend nearest to Saint Patrick's Day as there is a large Irish community in Luton. Luton Hoo is an English country house, estate and Grade I listed building designed by Scottish architect Robert Adam.RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine
The RAF Centre of Aviation Medicine (RAF CAM) is a medical organisation run by the Royal Air Force and based at RAF Henlow in Bedfordshire. It is the main organisation conducting aviation medicine research in the UK.Sandy, Bedfordshire
Sandy is a small market town and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England. It lies 8 miles (13 km) to the east of Bedford, 18 miles (29 km) to the south west of Cambridge and 43 miles (69 km) north of Central London. The town has a population of around 13,400 based on 2015 estimates.The A1 road bypasses the town to the west, with the East Coast Main Line running to the east. The area surrounding the town is dominated by a range of low hills known as the Sand Hills with the River Ivel running through the town.
The headquarters of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is on the outskirts of the town, having moved to The Lodge in 1961. The Shuttleworth Collection is also nearby, around 2 miles (3 km) south west of Sandy.University of Bedfordshire
The University of Bedfordshire is a public university situated in Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, England. The university was created in August 2006 following approval by the Privy Council by merging the University of Luton and the Bedford campus of De Montfort University.
It has 14,000 students, including approximately 4,500 international students. It is spread across six campuses: there are four campuses in Bedfordshire, in Bedford and Luton; and two campuses in Buckinghamshire, in Aylesbury (for students studying Nursing and Midwifery), and in Milton Keynes (where business studies, electronic engineering, and telecommunications are taught).
The university entered the Research Assessment Exercise in 2008 and achieved a GPA of 2.087 with 34.7% world-leading or internationally excellent. The top units of assessment were in Communication, Cultural and Media Studies, Social Work Social Policy and Administration and English Language and Literature. In 2012 it achieved FairTrade status.The current Chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire is John Bercow, the current Speaker of the House of Commons.Woburn, Bedfordshire
Woburn () meaning twisted or crooked stream) is a village and civil parish in Bedfordshire, England. It is situated about 5 miles (8.0 km) southeast of the centre of Milton Keynes, and about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of junction 13 of the M1 motorway and is a tourist attraction. At the 2011 census, it had a population of 933.Woburn Abbey
Woburn Abbey () occupying the east of the village of Woburn, Bedfordshire, England, is a country house, the family seat of the Duke of Bedford. Although it is still a family home to the current duke, it is open on specified days to visitors, along with the diverse estate surrounding it, including the historic landscape gardens and deer park (by Humphry Repton), as well as more recently added attractions including Woburn Safari Park, a miniature railway and a garden/visitor centre.
1974–1996 ← Ceremonial counties of England → current