Bedfordshire (BDF) is an inland county almost in the centre of England. The land is level and slightly undulating, except for the Chiltern Hills that cross the south of the county forming the Dunstable and Luton Downs.


Watling Street (A5) and the Icknield Road (B4009, A505) pass through the county intersecting at Dunstable. The Great North Road (A1) lies in the east of the county and passes near Biggleswade. In Saxon times, Bedfordshire was part of the kingdom of Mercia. Woburn Abbey is the property of the Duke of Bedford and is open to the public.

The Midland railway passes through Luton and Bedford on its way from London St Pancras to Sheffield, while the Londow & North Western Railway passed by Leighton Buzzard, just outside the county boundary. The Great Northern railway passes through Biggleswade.

The River Ouse passes through Bedford on its way to the Wash via the Fens and Kings Lynn. The River Lea find its source in Leagrave near Luton and flows south towards its junction with the Thames in London.

With its easy access to London and fertile soil, Bedfordshire was principally known for its market gardens and dairy farms. Luton was known for its hat trade, deriving from the plaiting of straw to make straw hats, before Vauxhall motors came to that town from London. Luton became a County Borough in 1964.

John Bunyan is one of the notables from Bedfordshire spending much time in Elstow

Neighbouring counties

Northamptonshire, Huntingdonshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire are neighbouring counties, clockwise from Northamptonshire to the North.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Record Office

Bedfordshire was one of the first counties to set up a County Record Office in 1913, and benefitted from F.G. Emmison as one of its most helpful staff. Before the Second World War F.G. Emmison visited churches in Bedfordshire transcribing the parish registers. This work was completed by subsequent record office staff and the transcripts are available for sale. This comprehensive information to 1812 makes Bedfordshire research very straightforward.

Before this a gentleman by the name of Weight-Matthews recorded the memorials from many Bedfordshire grave yards and his notebooks can be found in the Library of the Society of Genealogists. The Bedfordshire Family History Society have gone on to record and collect many of the memorial inscriptions from church yards.

Bedfordshire Family History Society

The Bedfordshire Family History Society meets in Bedford.

They have produced PRIME (Parish Registers Index - Master Edition) , a useful CD-ROM available on the Berkshire Family History Society Research Centre computers that helps you find which parishes include entries for your surnames.

Reviewed 26 Feb 2012



Additional information