Location of Bedfordshire in England
Location of Bedfordshire in England
Coordinates: 52°05′N 0°25′W / 52.083°N 0.417°W / 52.083; -0.417
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Constituent countryEngland
Time zoneUTC+0 (GMT)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+1 (BST)
UK ParliamentList of MPs
PoliceBedfordshire Police
Largest townLuton
Ceremonial county
Lord LieutenantSusan Lousada
High SheriffRussel Beard (2023-24)
Area1,235 km2 (477 sq mi)
 • Rank41st of 48
 • Rank36th of 48
Density580/km2 (1,500/sq mi)
72.0% White
16.6%. Asian
5.6% Black
Mixed 3.8%
1.9% Other[2]

Districts of Bedfordshire
  1. Bedford
  2. Central Bedfordshire
  3. Luton

Bedfordshire (/ˈbɛdfərdʃɪər, -ʃər/; abbreviated Beds) is a ceremonial county in the East of England. It is bordered by Northamptonshire to the north, Cambridgeshire to the north-east, Hertfordshire to the south and the south-east, and Buckinghamshire to the west. The largest settlement is Luton (225,262),[3][not verified in body] and Bedford is the county town.[not verified in body]

The county has an area of 1,235 km2 (477 sq mi) and had a population of 704,736 at the 2021 census.[2] Its other towns include Leighton Buzzard, Dunstable, Biggleswade, Houghton Regis, and Flitwick. Much of the county is rural. For local government purposes, Bedfordshire comprises three unitary authority areas: Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, and Luton.

The county's highest point is 243 m (797 ft) on Dunstable Downs in the Chilterns.[4]


Main article: History of Bedfordshire

The flag of the historic county of Bedfordshire

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 the ancient 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.


Hand-drawn map of Northampshire, Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Rutland by Christopher Saxton from 1576

The southern end of the county is on the chalk ridge known as the Chiltern Hills. The remainder forms 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 hard flint nodules deposited as gravel—these have 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, being situated in the east of England, has a relatively dry climate for the UK with regular but generally light rainfall. Average annual rainfall is 608.6 millimetres (23.96 in) at Bedford. October is the wettest month, with 65.3 millimetres (2.57 in), and March the driest, with 37.3 millimetres (1.47 in).[5]

Although temperatures are usually moderate, the county has one of the largest absolute temperature ranges in the UK – of more than 60 °C (108 °F). Average temperatures in Bedford range from a low of 1.5 °C (34.7 °F) overnight in February to a high of 22.4 °C (72.3 °F) during the day in July.[5] The highest official temperature recorded in Bedfordshire was 39.7 °C (103.5 °F) in 2022.[6] The lowest official temperature recorded in Bedfordshire was −20.6 °C (−5.1 °F) in 1947.[7]


Police and Crime Commissioner

The Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner is Festus Akinbusoye who is a member of the Conservative Party.[8]

Local government

For local government purposes, Bedfordshire is divided into three unitary authorities: the boroughs of Bedford and Luton, and the district of Central Bedfordshire. Healthcare in the county is dealt with by a single Clinical Commission Group (CCG), which serves all three local authorities in the county, alongside the City of Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.[9]

Emergency services

Policing and 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 Fire and Rescue Service governed by a Fire Authority comprising members of the three councils.[10]

Parliamentary constituencies

For elections to the House of Commons, Bedfordshire is divided into six constituencies, each returning a single Member of Parliament (MP):

Constituency Member of Parliament
Bedford   Mohammad Yasin
Luton North   Sarah Owen
Luton South   Rachel Hopkins
Mid Bedfordshire   Alistair Strathern
North East Bedfordshire   Richard Fuller
South West Bedfordshire   Andrew Selous

The present constituencies date from 1997.[11] The boundaries were slightly modified for the 2010 general election.[12]

See also: Category:Parliamentary constituencies in Bedfordshire (historic)


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[13] Agriculture[14] Industry[15] Services[16]
1995 4,109 81 1,584 2,444
2000 4,716 53 1,296 3,367
2003 5,466 52 1,311 4,102

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, Whitbread is based in Houghton Regis and Costa Coffee is now based in Dunstable. UltraVision is based in Leighton Buzzard, while Moto Hospitality is based at Toddington service station.

Traditional dishes

The "Bedfordshire clanger" is a local dish consisting of a suet crust pastry filled with meat in one end and a fruit preserve in the other. It was traditionally a farm labourers' meal, designed so as to produce no waste as well as two separate meals.

Chocolate Toothpaste is another local delicacy.[17] A chocolate tart, Chocolate Toothpaste consists of a gritty chocolate filling (said to resemble the texture of toothpaste) within a pastry tart, commonly finished with a swirl of whipped cream on top.

Visitor attractions

Luton Hoo
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Amusement/Theme Park
Country Park Country Park
English Heritage
Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Places of Worship Places of Worship
Museum (free)
Museum (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust


See also: List of future transport developments in the East of England

Bedfordshire lies on many of the main transport routes which link London to the Midlands, Northern England and the rest of the UK.


Two of England's six main trunk roads pass through Bedfordshire. The A1 London to Edinburgh road (the Great North Road) runs close by Biggleswade and Sandy, and Watling Street, the Roman road between London and Chester, passes through Dunstable. Until it was diverted in 2017,[18] this was also the route of the A5 road between London and Holyhead. The Bedfordshire section of the A5 now runs from junction 11a of the M1 to rejoin Watling Street between Dunstable and Hockliffe, then continues on to cross the Buckinghamshire border at the City of Milton Keynes.

To these was added in 1959 the M1 motorway, running from London to Leeds. Running from junctions 10 to 13 in Bedfordshire, there are two junctions serving Luton (at the southern end), with another one serving Bedford and Milton Keynes (at the northern end). Between these lies two other junctions in the county, with one connecting to the A5 and serving Dunstable, and the other serving the town of Flitwick. There is also one motorway service station in the county: Toddington Services.

Former trunk roads, now local roads managed by the local highway authorities, include the A428 (Cambridge-Coventry) running east–west through Bedford Borough, and the A6 from Luton to Carlisle.


Three of England's main lines pass through Bedfordshire.

The West Coast Main Line has but a short section where it passes through the far west of the county, with one station at Leighton Buzzard served by West Midlands Trains to London Euston and Northampton.

The East Coast Main Line has stations at Arlesey, Biggleswade and Sandy, served by Great Northern services to King's Cross and Peterborough.

The Midland Main Line serves Luton, Luton Airport (via Luton DART link from the station at Luton Airport Parkway) and Bedford, with trains to many destinations operated by East Midlands Railway and Thameslink. Intermediate stations at Flitwick, Harlington and Leagrave are served by Thameslink.

There are London North Western 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 & 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.[19]


Luton Airport

Luton Airport (the fifth busiest in the United Kingdom) has flights to many UK, European, Middle Eastern and North African destinations, operated largely (but not exclusively) by low-cost airlines.


Local news is provided by BBC East and ITV Anglia from Cambridge, the southern part of the county such as Luton can also receive BBC London & ITV London meaning the area can get news and television programmes from Cambridge and London.

Local radio stations are BBC Three Counties Radio (broadcast from Dunstable), Heart East, Greatest Hits Radio Bucks, Beds and Herts (formerly Mix 96), BigglesFM (covering Biggleswade, Potton and Sandy), In2beats (Bedford) and Radio LaB (Luton).


Main article: List of places in Bedfordshire

Further information: List of Bedfordshire settlements by population and Civil parishes in Bedfordshire


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 continued 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.[20]

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

Bedford Borough Council voted in November 2009 to change to the two-tier model in its area.[21][22] The change was due to be introduced over a five-year period and be completed in 2015.[23] However, with the cancellation of the Building Schools for the Future programme in 2010, the borough changed its proposals, and the switch proceeded on school by school basis where council funds allowed. However as of 2020 all of Bedford Borough has a two-tier education structure apart from in the Marston Vale area (one upper school remains).

Most of the secondary schools in the area offer sixth form courses (such as A Levels), though Bedford College and The Bedford Sixth Form also offer a range of further education courses. Additionally, Stella Mann College is a private college which offers a range of further education courses relating to the performing arts.[24]

There are a number of independent schools, many of which have links to the Harpur Trust. These include Bedford School, Bedford Modern School and Bedford Girls' School.

Central Bedfordshire

Shuttleworth College

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.

As well as sixth form departments in schools, the main further education providers in the district are Central Bedfordshire College and Shuttleworth College[25]


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.

Higher education

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.


Cardington airship sheds

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 World War I. 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

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.

Millbrook Proving Ground

The Millbrook Proving Ground, near Junction 13 of the M1, has 70 kilometres (43 mi) of varied vehicle test tracks.[26]

Sport and leisure

Main article: Sport in Bedfordshire

Bedfordshire is home to Premier League team Luton Town F.C. and the Ampthill RUFC and Bedford Blues rugby teams, amongst other various sporting teams.

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, there is a parallel route called the Greensand Cycle Way that follows minor country roads.

Bibliographical references

See also


  1. ^ "Mid-Year Population Estimates, UK, June 2022". Office for National Statistics. 26 March 2024. Retrieved 3 May 2024.
  2. ^ a b UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Bedford LA (E06000055)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. plus UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Central Bedfordshire LA (E06000056)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics. plus UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Luton LA (E06000032)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics.
  3. ^ UK Census (2021). "2021 Census Area Profile – Luton LA (E06000032)". Nomis. Office for National Statistics.
  4. ^ Bathurst, David (2012). Walking the county high points of England. Chichester: Summersdale. pp. 65–68. ISBN 978-1-84-953239-6.
  5. ^ a b "Bedford (Bedford) UK climate averages".
  6. ^ "Unprecedented extreme heatwave, July 2022" (PDF). Retrieved 20 February 2024.
  7. ^ "UK climate extremes".
  8. ^ "Festus Akinbusoye confirmed as Bedfordshire's new Police and Crime Commissioner – Bedford Independent". The Independent. 7 May 2021. Archived from the original on 9 May 2021. Retrieved 9 June 2021.
  9. ^ "BLMK CCG – Home". Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes Clinical Commission Group. Archived from the original on 10 July 2021. Retrieved 10 July 2021.
  10. ^ "The Local Government (Structural Changes) (Areas and Membership of Public Bodies in Bedfordshire and Cheshire) Order 2009 (S.I 2009 No. 119)". Office of Public Sector Information. 28 January 2009. Archived from the original on 17 April 2009. Retrieved 27 March 2009.
  11. ^ "The Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 1995". Office of Public Sector Information. 1995. Archived from the original on 4 July 2010. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  12. ^ "The Parliamentary Constituencies (England) Order 2007". Office of Public Sector Information. 2007. Archived from the original on 3 August 2008. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  13. ^ Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  14. ^ includes hunting and forestry
  15. ^ includes energy and construction
  16. ^ includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
  17. ^ "The Bedfordshire Clanger and Toothpaste Cake". MyBedfordshire. Archived from the original on 15 May 2021. Retrieved 13 December 2021.
  18. ^ "Woodside Link road". Central Bedfordshire Council.
  19. ^ "Bedford & Milton Keynes Waterway Trust". Archived from the original on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  20. ^ "Two-tier school proposal rejected". BBC News. 13 July 2006. Archived from the original on 6 March 2022. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  21. ^ "Middle schools to be abolished – Biggleswade News". Bedford Today. Archived from the original on 23 July 2012. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  22. ^ "'Momentous decision' for schools". BBC News. 17 November 2009. Archived from the original on 6 March 2022. Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  23. ^ "Tiers to be shed in school restructure? – Local". Bedford Today. Archived from the original on 14 November 2009. Retrieved 25 September 2010.
  24. ^ "Education in Bedford". Bedford Borough Council. 2004. Archived from the original on 18 March 2009. Retrieved 31 March 2009.
  25. ^ "Education and Schools Information" (PDF). Creating Central Bedfordshire. Central Bedfordshire Council. Retrieved 31 March 2009.[permanent dead link]
  26. ^ "About Millbrook Group". Millbrook Proving Ground. Archived from the original on 7 September 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2016.
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Detail from a copy of History of Bedfordshire published by Bedfordshire County Council in 1969