Bedford is the county town of the English county of Bedfordshire. It is the administrative centre for the borough of Bedford. The population of the borough is 147,911 according to the 2001 census, which shows rapid growth has taken place in the last few decades. Of this number approximately 100,000 live in the Bedford/Kempston urban area, and the remainder in the surrounding villages.
Bedford was a market town for the surrounding agricultural region from the early Middle Ages. A number of major engineering works opened in the nineteenth century, but most of these have now closed, and the town lacks a strong driver for its economy. Nonetheless it is expanding more rapidly than most English towns, with a number of major residential developments in progress. This is partly to meet demand for dormitory housing for commuters to London and to Milton Keynes, which is about ten miles away. Bedford is the northernmost stop on the Thameslink rail service to London, and is also served by Midland Mainline trains.
It was the home and prison of John Bunyan, the author of the Pilgrim's Progress. The last execution in Britain also took place in Bedford prison.
The River Great Ouse passes through the town centre, and is lined with attractive gardens known as The Embankment. Bedford is home to four public schools run by the Harpur Trust charity, endowed by Bedfordian Sir William Harpur in the sixteenth century.
Bedford is also home to the largest concentration of Italian Immigrants in the U.K According to a 2000 census, 10% of Bedford's population is of Italian descent.This is mainly as a result of labour recruitment in the early 1950's by the London Brick Company in the southern Italian regions of Puglia,Campania,Calabria and Sicily.
In addition to Italian migrants, Bedford has also been the recipient of significant immigration from South Asia, Poland, Greece/Cyprus and the West Indies, making it one of the most ethnically diverse towns of its size in Britain.
Ampthill, Biggleswade, Bromham, Stagsden, Dunstable, Kempston, Leighton Buzzard, Letchworth, Luton, Milton Keynes, Northampton, Rushden, Sandy, St Neots, Wellingborough
- Map (http://streetmap.co.uk/newmap.srf?x=505296&y=249564&z=3&sv=bedford&st=3&tl=Bedford,+Bedfordshire+&searchp=newsearch.srf&mapp=newmap.srf)
- Ugly Gardens of Bedford (http://www.tomchance.org.uk/photos/uglygardens)