The name of Bedford was derived around 700AD, after a local chieften gave his name to a part of the River Great Ouse that was suitable for crossing; Beda's Ford. In 919 King Edward the Elder, son of Alfred the Great visited the settlement of Beda's Ford and ordered the construction of the King's Ditch defences, part of which survives today.
After the Norman conquest, a castle was built at Bedford for the Beauchamp family. A six week siege mounted by Hubert de Burgh 1224 resulted in the destruction of the castle and only the mound upon which it stood remains today.
An endowment from Sir William Harpur, who later become Lord Mayor of London, enabled the building of a grammar school.
Another well know Bedford figure was John Bunyon, a tinker by trade. He joined the Bedford Independent Church during the 1650's, and was imprisoned in the county prison between 1660 and 1672 for illegal preaching. It was during this period that he started work of The Pilgrim's Progress, published in 1678.
John Howard, a high Sheriff of Bedfordshire, visited the prison in 1773. He found the prison to be in a terrible state and spent the rest of his life trying to improve the conditions of British prisons. He gave his name to the Howard League for Penal Reform.
Today, Bedford has a population of around 140,000 made up of 57 ethnic groups with 60 languages spoken.
Last Updated ( Friday, 07 May 2010 07:25 )