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Bedfordshire ( or ; abbreviated Beds.) is a ceremonial county of historic origin in Englandmarker that forms part of the East of England region.

It borders Cambridgeshire to the North East, Northamptonshiremarker to the North, Buckinghamshire (and the Borough of Milton Keynesmarker) to the West and Hertfordshiremarker to the South East.

The highest elevation point is on Dunstable Downsmarker in the Chilternsmarker.

As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the Bee Orchid as the county flower.

The traditional nickname for people from Bedfordshire is "Bedfordshire Bulldogs" or "Clangers", this last deriving from a local dish comprising a suet crust dumpling filled with meat or jam or both.


The first recorded use of the name was in 1011 as "Bedanfordscir", meaning the shire or county of Bedford, which itself means "Beda's ford" (river crossing).

Bedfordshire was historically divided into the nine hundred: Barford, Biggleswademarker, Cliftonmarker, Flitt, Mansheadmarker, Redbournestoke, Stodden, Willeymarker, Wixamtreemarker, along with the liberty and borough of Bedfordmarker.There have been several minor changes to the county boundary; for example, in 1897 Kensworthmarker and part of Caddingtonmarker were transferred from Hertfordshiremarker to Bedfordshire.

Geology, landscape and ecology

The southern end of the county is part of the chalk ridge known as the Chiltern Hillsmarker. The remainder is part of the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ousemarker 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 Flettonmarker 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 Parkmarker, Wybostonmarker and Felmershammarker.

The Greensand Ridgemarker 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 584.4mm at Bedford. Rain falls more frequently than every other day in autumn and winter but falls are normally light, conversely spring and summer generally sees more dry days but heavier individual falls of rain, of note were the 1998 Easter floods. In most years there is a spell lasting between 2 and 3 weeks in which no rain at all falls. Between November and April some snow can be expected from time to time but it is rarely heavy.

Average temperatures in Bedford range from a minimum of 0.6C overnight in February to 21.5C during the day in July and August. In the last 20 years the lowest temperature recorded was -9.5C and the highest 35.9C. These temperatures are significanlty higher than the temperatures recorded in previous winters, temperatures below -20C were recorded in the winter of 1947 in the county.


Local government

For local government purposes, Bedfordshire is divided into three unitary authorities: the boroughs of Bedfordmarker and Lutonmarker, 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 unitary authority.

Emergency services

Policing, fire and rescue services continue to be provided on a county-wide basis, with the Bedfordshire Police Authority and Bedfordshire and Luton Combined Fire Authority consisting of members of the three councils.

Parliamentary constituencies

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

The present constituencies date from 1997. The boundaries will be slightly modified for the next United Kingdom general election.


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
1995 4,109 81 1,584 2,444
2000 4,716 53 1,296 3,367
2003 5,466 52 1,311 4,102

Moto Hospitality is based at Toddingtonmarker service station. The Kier Group is based in Sandymarker. Whitbread is based in Dunstablemarker.

Visitor attractions


Although not a major transport destination, Bedfordshire lies on many of the main transport routes which link Londonmarker to the Midlandsmarker 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 Leedsmarker motorway. This has three junctions around Luton, one serving Bedford and another serving Milton Keynesmarker.

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 rural services also running between Bedfordmarker and Bletchleymarker along the Marston Vale Linemarker.


Bedfordshire is served by a large number of taxi companies. Lutonmarker 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 London Luton Airportmarker.


The River Great Ousemarker links Bedfordshire to the Fenlandmarker 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 Canalmarker at Milton Keynes, 23 km distant.


London Luton Airportmarker has flights to many UK, Europe, North America and North African destinations, operated by low-cost airlines.

Settlements in Bedfordshire

Very large towns (population Over 50,000)

Large settlements (population between 5,000 and 49,999)

Mid-size settlements (population between 1,000 and 4,999)

Small settlements (population under 1,000)


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. Though Central Bedfordshire plans to continue with the three-tier model in its area, Bedford Borough Council voted in November 2009 to change to the two-tier model in its area. The change will be introduced over a five year period and be completed in 2015 .

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 Collegemarker, Dunstable Collegemarker and Shuttleworth Collegemarker also offer a range of further education courses. Additionally, Stella Mann Collegemarker 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 Trustmarker.


Luton also operates a three-tier education system though Luton's 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 6th form education. Instead this is handled by Luton Sixth Form Collegemarker, though Barnfield College also offers a range of further education courses.

Higher education

There are two universities based in the county - the University of Bedfordshiremarker and Cranfield Universitymarker. These institutions attract students from all over the UK and abroad, as well as from Bedfordshire.

Religious sites


Bedfordshire is home to Luton Town F.C. amongst other various sporting teams.

Notable people from Bedfordshire

Bibliographic references

  • History of Bedfordshire 1066-1888 by Joyce Godber
  • A Bedfordshire Bibliography by L R Conisbe published in 1962 with a supplement in 1967
  • Bedfordshire Historical Record Society by H O White (published annually).
  • Guide to the Bedfordshire Record Office 1957 with supplements.
  • Guide to the Russell Estate Collections Published in 1966.
  • Elstow Moot Hall leaflets On John Bunyan and 17th Century Subjects
  • A Bedfordshire Flora by John Dony
  • Lutonmarker and the Hat Industry by John Dony
  • Pillow Lace in the East Midlands by Charles Freeman
  • Bedfordshire Magazine (Published Quarterley)


  1. County flowers in Britain
  2. Met Office Bedford Averages 1971-2000
  3. Met Office: Easter 1998 - Heavy rainfall
  4. CLIMATE BEDFORD - Weather
  6. Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  7. includes hunting and forestry
  8. includes energy and construction
  9. includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
  10. Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust
  14. Detail from a copy of History of Bedfordshire published by Bedfordshire County Council in 1969 with no ISBN

External links

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