Bedfordshire or Beds, an inland county, bounded on the NW by Northampton, on the NE by Huntingdon, on the E by Cambridge, on the SE and S by Herts, and on the SW and W by Bucks. Its greatest length is 36 1/2 miles; its greatest breadth, 22 1/2 miles; its circuit, about 146 miles; and its area, according to the returns furnished by the Ordnance Survey Department, 298,494 acres. The general aspect is diversified and pleasing. The surface in the centre, called the Vale of Bedford, is prevailingly flat and luxuriant; in the SW hilly, a portion of the Chilterns, commanding extensive views; on the flanks of the Vale of Bedford and in the N, hillocky and rolling; and in other parts, a mixture of swells and flats. The chief rivers are the Ouse, the Ivel, the Hiz, the Ousel, and the Lea. The prevailing rocks in the S, up to Houghton-Regis and Barton-in-the-Clay, are chalk; those of a belt about 7 miles broad, east-north-eastward from Eaton-Bray and Leighton-Buzzard, are upper greensand and gault; those of a belt of similar but more irregular breadth immediately N of this, are lower greensand; those of the tracts farther N and NE, including most of the Vale of Bedford, are middle oolite, variously coral rag, calcareous grit, and Oxford clay; and those of a small tract along the Ouse N of Bedford, and of another small tract continuous with this in the extreme NW, are lower oolite, variously forest marble, Bradford clay, and fuller's earth. Chalk, under the name of clunch, is burnt for lime; freestone is found at Tottenhoe; a little ironstone is found; fuller's earth, of economical value, was formerly raised in Aspley-Guise; and a few grains of gold were once obtained at Pulloxhill. Mineral springs occur at Bedford, Bletsoe, Bromham, Clapham, Cranfield, Milton-Ernest, Odell, and Turvey. The climate is mild and genial.
The soil is very various and mixed, and occasions diversity of husbandry. A very thin soil lies on most of the chalk hills; a mixed sand prevails from Woburn to the vicinity of Biggleswade; a rich gravelly loam lies along much of the Ouse and the Ivel; and a clayey soil, often very fertile, prevails throughout the Vale of Bedford and the N.
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Archives and Libraries
Bedford & Luton Archives & Records Service (BLARS)
Tel: (01234) 228833
Fax: (01234) 228854
For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.
List of Registration Districts in Bedfordshire from 1837 to 1974.
A listing of the Hundreds and Liberties in Bedfordshire, with the parishes contained in them.
Land and Property
The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Bedfordshire is available to browse.
Old map of Bedfordshire circa 1848 (Samuel Lewis)
Old map of Bedfordshire circa 1895 (Gazetteer of England and Wales)
Newspapers and Periodicals
The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Bedfordshire papers online:
- Bedfordshire Times and Independent
- Biggleswade Chronicle
- Luton Times and Advertiser
- Luton News and Bedfordshire Chronicle
Parishes and places
The towns and parishes have now been moved to a separate page.
A listing of the Poor Law Unions in Bedfordshire, with the parishes contained in them.
The Visitations of Bedfordshire 1566, 1582, and 1634 are available to view online.