Town and administrative headquarters of Bedfordshire, southern England, on the River Ouse, about 80 km/50 mi north of London; population (2001) 82,500. Industries include light engineering, food-processing, aircraft services, and the manufacture of agricultural machinery, diesel engines, pumps, bricks, communications systems, and electronic components. The writer John Bunyan is said to have written part of The Pilgrim's Progress (1678) while imprisoned in the town.
Bedford is also the administrative centre of the historical Borough of Bedford, which was awarded Charter status by Henry II in 1166.
Features St Paul's Church dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. The interior was restored in the 19th century. It contains monuments to the important local benefactor William Harpur (1496–1573) and his wife, Alice. Outside the church is a statue of John Howard, the prison reformer, who was appointed high sheriff of Bedfordshire in 1773. In the nearby village of Elstow is the Abbey Church of St. Helena and St. Mary, restored in 1880, which is the remnant of a 13th-century monastic church.
Museums and galleries The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery includes a collection of English watercolours, 20th-century prints, porcelain, glass, and Bedfordshire lace. A museum adjoining the Bunyan Meeting House, built on the site of the chapel in which John Bunyan preached, displays relics of the author and copies of The Pilgrim's Progress in many languages. The late 15th-century Moot Hall in Elstow, where Bunyan was born in 1628, also contains exhibits illustrating life in the time of the writer. Bedford Museum was established in the 1960s and houses collections relating to local archaeology, social history, biology, and geology.
Famous people Distinguished figures associated with the town include John Bunyan, and William Harpur, who was born in Bedford and became Lord Mayor of London in 1561, and who founded a grammar school in the town. The Harpur Trust was established to administer the school and later founded others in the town; it still supports Bedford School, a private boys' school, and other educational institutions.
Bedford Borough Council
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