Bedford location guide


The name of the town derives from the name of a Saxon chief called Beda and a ford crossing the river Great Ouse. Bedford was a small agricultural town famous for its wool, lace and brewing industries and in the 19th century Bedford transformed into an important engineering hub.

A fortress was built in Bedford in Saxon time which was later destroyed by the Danes, another castle was build by Paine de Beauchamp which was later destroyed. Today only a mound remains on the site of the medieval  castle located close to the centre of the modern town, less than a hundred yards from Bedford Bridge and the High Street. 

Bedford's principal church is St Paul's, in the square of the same name at the historic centre of the town. It has a tall spire which is one of the main features of the town. 


Bedford has two museums The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, and the Panacea Museum. The Bedford Corn Exchange is the largest entertainment venue in the town and plays host to a variety of performances, meetings, conferences, concerts and private functions and regularly plays host to many notable bands and acts from all over the UK as well as showcasing local live music.

Bedford is a divers and vibrant town with almost 30% of Bedford's population being of Italian descent. This is mainly as a result of recruitment from Southern Italy in the early 1950s by the London Brick Company who also recruited workers from South Asia, Eastern Europe, Greece, Cyprus, the Middle East and Africa, making Bedford one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse towns in the UK.  There is a wide variety of excellent bars, restaurants and social venues throughout the town, in addition to a large number of delis and grocery shops selling Italian and continental produce. Bedford has a high number of Christian churches, several Polish and Italian Roman Catholic churches, and various independent churches that cater to the different ethnic and language groups. 

The River Great Ouse passes through the town centre and is lined with gardens known as the Embankment. Bedford Park is the town's largest urban park and is located directly to the north of the town centre. The park retains many original features from its Victorian design and construction, including a cricket pavilion and bandstand which are both still in use. 

Priory Country Park is a large country park located on the northern bank of the River Great Ouse in eastern Bedford. Both parks have been awarded Green Flag status.


Bedford is a great place to be and hosts many events throughout the year:

  • The Annual Bedford Regatta held in May is Britain's largest one-day river rowing regatta
  • The ‘Bedford River Festival’ is the second largest regular outdoor event in the UK, it is held every two years in early July. The event lasts for two days and regularly attracts approx. 250,000 visitors who enjoy sports, funfairs and live music
  • 'Bedford by the Sea' when large quantities of sand are deposited in the town centre 
  • 'Bedford International Kite Festival' in held in June. 
  • 'Proms in the Park' is a popular musical event held in early August.


Road access to the town is provided by the A6 road. The town is served by two railway stations and a network of bus services. Bedford is the northern terminus of the Thameslink railway line that runs to London and Brighton.


Education in Bedford is provided by the following establishments:

  • Secondary schools include Bedford Academy, Bedford Free School, Mark Rutherford School and St Thomas More Catholic School 
  • the last remaining upper school in the town Upper School is Biddenham 
  • Private schools include Bedford School for boys, Bedford Modern School, Bedford Girls' School, Pilgrims Pre-Preparatory School, Rushmoor School St. Andrew's School and Polam School. 
  • Bedford hosts a campus of the University of Bedfordshire 
  • Bedford College provides further education courses 
  • Stella Mann College is a private college, which offers a range of courses relating to the performing arts.


Bedford has four rugby union teams Bedford Blues, Bedford Queens, Bedford Swifts and Bedford Athletic. In addition it has one league team, the Bedford Tigers. Taking into account the size of its overall urban area, Bedford is one of the largest towns in England without a professional football team.

Rowing is a major part of the sports scene with a number of regatta events hosted throughout the year from February to October and the Viking Kayak Club organise the Bedford Kayak Marathon. 

Bedford and the surrounding borough was a major host of national teams preparing for the 2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics. Bedford accommodated more Olympic teams in 2012 than any other town or borough in the UK.

Bedford is home to the UK’s largest outdoor fitness company, British Military Fitness which operates in Bedford Park.

Notable people 

Many famous people have a connection with Bedford including: 

  • John Bunyan author of Pilgrim’s progress
  • Ronnie Barker, the late comedian
  • Sir William Harpur, who became Lord Mayor of London.
  • Carol Vorderman, born in Bedford, television personality best known for being a long-standing co-presenter of Channel 4 game show Countdown.
  • Joe Bugner, heavyweight boxer.
  • Eddie 'the Eagle' Edwards, ski jumper
  • Paula Radcliffe, the United Kingdom's top female long-distance runner and current world record holder for the women's marathon
  • Paddy Ashdown (now Lord Ashdown), former leader of the Liberal Democrats attended Bedford School
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