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The local area guide to living in Bedford

Bedford is located to the East of England in Bedfordshire. Its name is thought to derive from a Saxon chief, Beda, and a ford crossing the River Great Ouse. The pretty town boasts a riverside setting – which can be admired from the restored Castle Mound of Bedford Castle.

Bedford has played a major role in important trades throughout history. During the Middle Ages it was known as a largely agricultural region, and from the 16th century it became one of England’s hotspots for lace, a lace industry that remained important in Bedford right through to the 20th century. However, one thing that has remained constant here in Bedford is its thriving market. In fact, the market dates back more than 800 years. Other modern day amenities in Bedford include its mix of shops and services on the High Street, a variety of pubs, bars and restaurants, and the popular Bedford Park.

Information about the local residents

At the time of the 2011 census, Bedford had a population of 157,479, a number that has continued to grow over recent years. Just over 12% of the population had retired – a little less than the UK average – while the median age of the population was 39, the same as the rest of England. One of the most striking things about this market town is its higher-than-average number of immigrants. At the time of the census, just 71.5% of the population were White English/Welsh/Scottish/Northern Irish/British compared to a 79.8% average in England.

Employment levels here are good, with 2011 census data revealing that two thirds of the population were employed or self-employed. The unemployment level was in line with figures across England at 4.4%. Popular industries worked in included Wholesale and Retail Trade, Repair of Motor Vehicles and Motor Cycles, Human Health and Social Work, Education, and Manufacturing.

Nearby schools

Unlike many towns in England, Bedford has a three-tier education school. Instead of a primary/secondary school split, the schools are arranged into lower, middle and upper schools. In recent years, there have been attempts to change this in order to fit in with the rest of England. However, due to a lack of funding, only some schools switched to the traditional secondary school model, with many lower and middle schools still operating.

Within Bedford, there are a number of good primary schools, the following rated “outstanding” by Ofsted: Priory Lower School, Castle Newnham School and St John Rigby Catholic Primary School. One of the best secondary schools in the region is St John’s School, an academy providing education for pupils up to the age of 18.

Getting around

Bedford lies between the M1 and A1, and offers easy access to major cities including Oxford and Cambridge. Other major roads serving the town include the A421, A509, A6, and A4280. Getting around the town itself is easy. For those that don’t drive, there’s good public transport available in the town, with regular buses from the town centre and an X5 route for journeys further afield.

The town also boasts two railway stations, served by East Midlands Trains, London Midland, and Thameslink. London is just 35 minutes away by rail, while other major train destinations include Brighton and Nottingham. Bedford St Johns railway station also provides transportation to Bletchley, stopping at a number of small towns along the way.

Local shops

When it comes to High Street stores and supermarkets, residents will find everything they need right on their doorstep. There’s a huge choice of supermarkets, including Sainsbury’s, Morrisons, and Aldi, as well as well as smaller branches dotted across the town, like Tesco Metro. Groceries and local produce can also be purchased at Bedford Market, which operates every Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday.

The town centre itself boasts a mix of popular chain stores and independent, family-run shops and cafes. Bedford also has its own indoor shopping centre, the Harpur Centre, which is home to shops like Topshop, Boots, and Primark.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.