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United Kingdom
04 Woburn Abbey (50).JPG
Woburn Abbey
Flag of Bedfordshire
Constant Be
[Interactive map]
Area: 468 square miles
Population: 602,847
County town: Bedford
Biggest town: Luton
County flower: Bee orchid [1]

The County of Bedford is a shire in southern England, lying between Huntingdonshire to the north-east, Northamptonshire to the north, Buckinghamshire to the west and Hertfordshire to the south-east.

The county is generally low-lying, though the southern end of the county is swept by the chalk ridge of the Chiltern Hills, where the county's highest elevation is found, at 800 feet, on the Dunstable Downs. The rest of the shire is part of the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries.

The Greensand Ridge is an escarpment across the county from near Leighton Buzzard to near Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire.

Bedfordshire's soil of clay and sandstone has provided material for brick-making. Flint is extracted commercially too, leaving lakes, at Priory Country Park, at Wyboston and at Felmersham.

Bedfordshire is divided into the nine hundreds: Barford, Biggleswade, Clifton, Flitt, Manshead, Redbournestoke, Stodden, Willey, Wixamtree, along with the liberty and borough of Bedford.

In 2002, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the bee orchid as Bedfordshire's county flower.

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


Luton has long been an industrial town, which fuelled its growth into the county's largest town, maintained by its location by the M1 and the A5 and Luton Airport. Other towns on the A1, A5 and M1 corridors have likewise seen commercial development.

Bedford is not on the major north-south routes but has long been a commercial centre in its own right.

Bedfordshire is the location of a number of notable British and international companies which have either headquarters or major bases in the county.

Visitor attractions

Cathedral/Abbey/Priory Cathedral/Abbey/Priory
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Amusement/Theme Park Amusement/Theme Park
Castle Castle
Country Park Country Park
English Heritage English Heritage
Forestry Commission Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Museum (free)
Museum (not free)
Museum (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust
Zoo Zoo


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


Two of Britain's main trunk roads pass through Bedfordshire:

To these was added in 1959:

Former trunk roads, now local roads managed by the local highway authority include A428 running east-west through Bedford, and the A6 from Rushden to Luton.


Three main lines pass through Bedfordshire:

There are rural services also running between Bedford and Bletchley along the Marston Vale Line.


The River Great Ouse links Bedfordshire to the Fenland waterways. As of 2004 there are plans by the Bedford and Milton Keynes Waterway Trust to construct a new canal linking the Great Ouse at Bedford to the Grand Union Canal at Milton Keynes, 14 miles away.[1]


Luton Airport (now London Luton Airport) has flights to many British, European, North American and North African destinations.


The hundreds of Bedfordshire

Two towns in the county have populations over 50,000:

Smaller towns are:

Bibliographical references

  • Bedfordshire Magazine (quarterly)[2]
  • Elstow Moot Hall leaflets on John Bunyan and 17th century subjects[2]
  • Guide to the Bedfordshire Record Office 1957 with supplements.[2]
  • Guide to the Russell Estate Collections Published in 1966.[2]
  • Conisbe, L. R. (1962) A Bedfordshire Bibliography (supplement, 1967)[2]
  • Dony, John (1953) A Bedfordshire Flora. Luton: Corporation of Luton Museum & Art Gallery[2]
  • Dony, John (1942) A History of the Straw Hat Industry. Luton: Gibbs, Bamforth & Co.[2]
  • Freeman, Charles (1958) Pillow Lace in the East Midlands. Luton: Luton Museum and Art Gallery[2]
  • Godber, Joyce (1969) History of Bedfordshire 1066-1888[2]
  • White, H. O. Bedfordshire Historical Record Society (published annually)[2]


  1. Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 Detail from a copy of History of Bedfordshire published by Bedfordshire County Council in 1969
Counties of the United Kingdom

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