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History of Bedford

  • council: Bedford
  • population: 79,190
  • phone code: 01234
  • postcode area: MK40, MK41, MK42
  • county: Bedfordshire
  • twin Towns: Bamberg - Germany, Arezzo - Italy, Rovigo - Italy

The Borough of Bedford was awarded Charter status by Henry II in 1166.

The Borough includes the county town of Bedford, the urban area of Kempston and 43 rural villages - an area of around 120,000 acres.

Its population of just under 140,000, is the most cosmopolitan in the UK, with some 57 ethnic groups being represented.

Bedford and Kempston make up the urban centre of the district - a centre noted for its excellent shops, wide range of high quality housing, first class educational facilities and unrivalled recreational amenities.

The River Great Ouse is a central and attractive feature of the town.

Within the district and surrounding the urban area are numerous villages in pleasant rural settings.

Bedford is the historic county town of Bedfordshire. This pleasant riverside town, situated near to London, Oxford and Cambridge, has many places to see and is ideally located for history, leisure, the arts, culture and quiet unspoilt countryside.

Today, Bedford is a lively town with plenty of opportunities and a cultural diversity suiting many tastes.

Famous People of Bedford
Two museums in Bedford tell the story of the Borough and of the men of faith and imagination who lived here. Perhaps the best known of these is John Bunyan who was born a few miles away at Elstow. He wrote his famous book, The Pilgrim's Progress, while imprisoned in the County Gaol for refusing to recognise the Established Church; to this day, nonconformist chapels, some dating back to Bunyan's time, are much in evidence in towns and villages all over the area.

The window commemorating the tercentenary of publication of The Pilgrim's Progress, 1678 can be seen at the Bunyan Meeting Free Church in Mill Street .This postcard image was famously sent to Terry Waites whilst he was held hostage in Beirut. In June, Bedford hosts the 'John Bunyan and 17th Century Festival', with its Street Fayre, pageant, battles, music, flowers and dance.

John Howard, another Bedfordshire man, also knew the inside of prisons. A nonconformist landowner in the 18th century, he denounced the appalling conditions in the gaol and in the even more terrible prison ships. His name lives on in the Howard League of Penal Reform.

The Bedford reformist tradition is continued by Trevor Huddleston, born here in 1913 and whose statue placed in his honour can be seen at the top of Silver Street. As a tribute to this remarkable man the statue was unveiled in 2000 by Nelson Mandela.

Sir William Harpur was a Bedford man remembered with gratitude. Born at the turn of the 16th century, he became Lord Mayor of London and founded a school in Bedford, to be maintained by a rich endowment of London land. The Harpur Schools still flourish in Bedford today.

Although not born in Bedford, Glenn Miller and his band were based here during the war. It was from here that many of his morale-boosting broadcasts were made and from where he flews to entertain the Allied troops in war-torn Europe.

A bronze bust of Glenn Miller can be seen in an alcove on the fašade of Bedford Corn Exchange.

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