, in the UK
, is the County Town
Bedford is a historic market town dating back to before the Norman Conquests. It is situated on what used to be a shallow crossing point on the River Ouse in East Anglia, and is enriched by the remains of a medieval castle, which can be found just off the High Street near McDonalds.
Bedford used to be a centre of manufacturing due to its strategic placement on the North-South railway line from London to the north. Successive waves of immigrants have come to Bedford in the past fifty years to work at the nearby brickworks at Stewartby. They included Italians in the 1950s, West Indians in the 1960s, and Indians and Pakistanis in the 1970s. Most of the towns manufacturing sector has more recently disappeared. The centre of the towns economy is probably today its four expensive single-sex fee-paying Harpur Trust Schools: Bedford School, Bedford Modern School, Bedford High School and Dame Alice Harpur School. They draw in pupils from far and wide, and create a service sector educational bias in the local economy.
Bedford prison was the home of John Bunyan whilst he was writing The Pilgrim's Progress. It is also where the last person in Britain to suffer the death penalty was executed.
To get to Bedford from London either take the M1 north to Junction 13, and then the A421 to the town itself (which will take you 1-2 hours), or get a Northbound train at King's Cross Thameslink (1 hour, they leave every 10 minutes during the day), or St. Pancras (35-45 minutes, with a free cup of tea, but are less frequent and often overcrowded). The town can be found in between Oxford (an hours drive south-west) and Cambridge (40 minutes East).
The Member of Parliament for Bedford is Patrick Hall, who has held the seat for the Co-operative Labour party since the 1997 election, although his majority fell from some 15,000 to 10,000 votes in the 2001 general election, (but it remains a safe seat by most standards).
The highlight of the towns cultural life must be the River Festival every second year, where you can find medieval jousts, re-enactments of the English Civil War, (Bedford fought on the side of Parliament,) and much candyfloss.