Bedfordshire

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Back to BEDFORDSHIREBedfordshire CrestNa0028.wmf (10806 bytes)ounty of south central England. First recorded in 1011 as Bedanfordscir, the Anglo-Saxon, Beda's Ford, or the river crossing.

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Local Links Bedfordshire County Council - Bedford Borough Council

owns and cities Bedford (administrative headquarters), Dunstable, Luton
rea 1,192 sq km / 460 sq miles
opulation (1995 est) 373,000
opography The county is low lying with the Chiltern Hills in the southwest. Bedfordshire is bounded on the northeast by Cambridgeshire; on the northwest by Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes; on the west by Buckinghamshire; and on the southeast by Luton and Hertfordshire.The Great Ouse, flowing through the centre of the county to the east, is navigable to Little Barford. The headquarters of the London Gliding Club were established on Dunstable Downs in 1930.
ommerce Agricultural machinery; cement manufacture (using local chalk); clay; electrical goods; gravel; motor vehicles and parts; packaging; sand; brickworks (one of the world's largest), at Stewartby. Cereals (especially wheat and barley); vegetables.
Industries include printing, engineering, communication technology, and the manufacture of paper, cement, plastic and rubber mouldings, and commercial vehicles.
amous people John Bunyan the Nonconformist thinker and nevelist, wrote Pilgrims Progress, while in Bedford jail. John Howard, Joseph Paxton. Former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown went to Bedford Boarding School. Comic poet John Hegley grew up in Luton.
ttractions Back to topThe smallest of what are known as the 'Shire' counties. Bedfordshire has no cities but can boast the fine market towns of Bedford, Luton, Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard.
Bedfordshire is predominantly a rural county to the north and is more densely populated to the south where the M1 motorway cuts through the county from Buckinghamshire in the West to Hertfordshire in the South.

Luton Hoo
The colourful Edwardian diamond magnate Sir Julius Wernher decided to have Robert Adam's classical 18th century stone mansion remodelled in 1903 to suit his own extravagant tastes. His collection of art treasures include Faberge jewels, imperial robes worn by the Russian Tsars and paintings by Titian and Rembrandt.

Luton
Luton is Bedfordshire's largest town, a thriving centre of the light industry and famous for its international airport. In the past, however, it was famed for the making of pillow lace and the elegant straw plaited hats worn by ladies to protect their complexions from the sun. Exhibits in the Wardown Museum illustrate the history of this crass from a bygone era. Luton along with Dunstable is also well known for being a important part of the British motor industry.

Sharpenhoe
A footpath winds from sharpenhoe, a tiny village nestling at the foot of a steep hill, to a lovely area of high woodland known as the Clappers, owned by the National Trust. The views from the top explain why John Bunyan chose this for the 'Delectable Mountain' of his Pilgrim's Progress.

Ampthill
Sheltered by low hills, Ampthill presents a charming mixture of thatched cottages, Georgian houses, old coaching inns and a parish church set in a pretty square. Ampthill Park, is famous for the ancient oak trees in its grounds. Catherine of Aragon, first wife of Henry VIII, was dismissed to Ampthill when the king decided to divorce her.

Houghton House
The 17th century mansion that was once home of the Countess of Pembroke, sister of Sir Philip Sidney, fell into ruins nearly 200 years ago. This is thought to have been a 'House Beautiful' of Pilgrim's Progress, the book that John Bunyan wrote while a prisoner in Bedford jail. The hill on which the jail stands is his 'Hill of Difficulty'.

Woburn
The village of Woburn has a number of attractive buildings dating from the Post coach era, and is filled with antique shops and boutiques catering for thousands of visitors drawn to Woburn Abbey, seat of the Dukes of Bedford This most flamboyant of all Britain's stately homes is famous for its wild animal kingdom. Herds of rare species of deer and other exotic animals are housed in the beautiful 3000 acre park and there are many other attractions to suit the whole family. The Abbey itself is a spacious 18th century mansion designed by Henry Holland and contains a notable collection of paintings by Canaletto, Velasquez, Gainsborough and Van Dyck.

Leighton Buzzard
A graceful five sided market cross with two tiers of arches holding carved figures, erected in 1400, stands at the centre of the market town. One of the attractive old buildings nearby, the Wilkes almhouses, is the scene of curious ceremony which takes place annually in May: while portions of the founders will are read aloud, a choirboy stands on his head. As Leighton Buzzard has now joined to Linslade on the opposite bank of the Ouzel, the town is sometimes called Leighton-Linslade. From Pages Park station, the Leighton Buzzard Railway, converted from industrial track, operate steam trains through nearly four miles of lovely wooded countryside.

Dunstable Downs
Rising dramatically from the surrounding farmland, Dunstable Downs, a steep scarp of the Chiltern Hills, is an ideal centre for gliding. Part of the Downs, an area of woods and common land where many species of wild flowers grow, belongs to the National Trust. Two ancient highways cross the hills, the great Roman road of Watling Street and Icknield Way, a much older prehistoric track that may have been named after the tribe of the Iceni, whose queen Boudicca was eventually defeated by the Romans. Five Knolls, just outside Dunstable is a group of round barrows were several Bronze Age skeletons, knives and weapons have been excavated.

Whipsnade
Whipsnade Zoo near Dunstable, belonging to the London Zoological Society. Now home to a wild animal park, which was opened in 1931 and caters each year to thousands of visitors from far and wide, houses over 2000 animals which roam the large paddocks of the 600 acre park set in the beautiful Chiltern countryside.

Sandy, the home of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, hosts a 104 acre nature reserve.

Bushmead Priory, Colmworth, Bedford.

Ceil Higgins Art Gallery, Castle Close, Bedford.

De grey Mausoleum, Flitton, Bedford.

Swiss Garden, Biggleswade Road, Old Warden.

Wrest Park Gardens, Silsoe, Luton.