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Bedford St Paul, Bedfordshire

Historical Description

St Paul's is an ecclesiastical and civil parish in Bedford. St Paul's church is in the Early and Decorated English styles, and has a handsome tower and octagonal spire. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Ely; gross yearly value, £350 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Ely. Population of the ecclesiastical parish, 5061; of the civil parish, 14,451.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Church Records

The parish register dates from the year 1559.

The Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service (BLARS) hold the registers for Bedford St. Paul: Baptisms 1565-1950, Marriages 1565-1944, Burials 1565-1968, Banns 1790-1989. Transcripts in either book or microfiche form for registers prior to 1813 can be purchased from the BLARS (see website for details).


Church of England

St. Paul, St. Paul's Square (parish church)

St. Paul's church, in the square of that name, is a building of stone, in the Early English, Decorated and Perpendicular styles, consisting of chancel, nave of three bays with clerestory, spacious aisles, transepts, north porch, south porch with parvise, and an embattled central tower, with spire, containing a clock and 8 bells, recast, with the addition of 2 treble bells, in 1896: it was a collegiate church previous to the Conquest, and retained this rank until between 1148 and 1170, when its prebends were transferred to Newnham, in the parish of Goldington, by Simon de Beauchamp, who was buried in this church in 1206, the stone slab, said to have marked his grave, still remaining: the edifice was rebuilt in 1224, on the site of an earlier structure, the greater part of which had been pulled down by order of King John in order to fortify the castle: in the latter part of the 15th century the church, then consisting of double chancel and nave, was materially altered by the addition of a clerestory and the raising of the arcade, north and south porches being added and the north transept removed; the two chancels were also inclosed with oak screens, and the whole building covered with an oak roof finely carved: the original chancel roof still exists, but those of the naves were renewed in 1848, the figures and enrichments of the former roofs being, however, retained; much of the ancient screen-work was destroyed during the renovation of the chancel at the same date, but the rood screen, though not now in situ, still exists: in the reign of King Henry VIII. the church of St. Paul became for a time the cathedral of a suffragan bishop: in the year 1868 the tower and spire were rebuilt, the design of the tower being modified and its plan enlarged, and the old spire re-erected upon it; a new north transept was also built in place of that removed in the 15th century; in 1878-9 the north and south walls of the chancel were converted into arcades opening into the aisles, a clerestory, vestries and other additions made, the roof raised and repaired and a new east window inserted: in 1884 a new aisle, corresponding in every respect with the south nave, was built on the north side of the nave proper, and the north porch rebuilt, all the original windows and ornamental work being preserved and reset; the church, as thus enlarged, was re-opened by the Lord Bishop of Ely, 4th Dec. 1884; the work was carried out under the direction of Mr. John Day, of Bedford, architect and diocesan surveyor: the church contains some fine monuments, including one to Thomas Christie esq. and one to Sir William Harpur kt. and alderman of London, a great benefactor to the town and founder of the Bedford Grammar school: a new chiming apparatus, playing 14 tunes, was put up by public subscription in the tower of this church in 1879, and opened 1st January, 1880: the stained east window, a memorial to Alderman Sir William Harpur, founder of the Grammar school, and Dame Alice his wife, was erected by public subscription, principally contributed by past and present scholars of the school: there are other memorial windows to Sir Richard Thomas Gilpin bart.; to Sarah Ann, wife of T. Bull esq. d. 13 May, 1891; to the Rev. M. F. Sadler M.A., prebendary of Wells, and vicar of St. Paul's 1864-69, and to Miss Belcher, 16 years head mistress of the high school for girls: in 1898 the church was largely renovated and refitted and a new choir vestry built, new oak screens were placed in the chancel, the old choir stalls were restored and 14 new stalls provided, under the supervision of Mr. G. F. Bodley R.A. at a cost of £4,000: the organ, repaired in 1895 at a cost of £300, has been since rebuilt at a cost of £1,165, and a rood screen was erected in 1906: there are 1,400 sittings, of which 800 are free.

All Saints' church, Iddesleigh road, Queen's park, erected in 1910, in place of an iron building, at a cost of about £7,000, as a chapel of ease to St. Paul's, is an edifice of brick with local stone dressings, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave, north and south aisles, and will seat 700 persons.

The ecclesiastical parish of the Holy Trinity was formed from that of St. Paul in 1860: the church, in Bromham road, erected. in 1839-40, is a spacious edifice of stone in the Early English style, consisting of chancel, nave, north and south porches, and a lofty western tower containing a clock and one bell: in the chancel is a memorial window to the first vicar of the parish: in 1891 the organ was enlarged and moved from the west gallery to the east end: there are sittings for 1,400 persons, of which 500 are free. The parish register dates from the year 1841.

Civil Registration

For general information about Civil Registration (births, marriages and deaths) see the Civil Registration page.

St. Paul was in Bedford Registration District from 1837 to 1974

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Bedfordshire is available to browse.

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Bedfordshire papers online:

Poor Law

Bedford St Paul was in Bedford Poor Law Union. For further detailed history of the Bedford Union see Peter Higginbotham's excellent resource: Bedford Poor Law Union and Workhouse.


We have transcribed the list of Private Residents in Bedford, from Kelly's Directory of Bedfordshire, 1890 and 1910.

Visitations Heraldic

A full transcript of the Visitations of Bedfordshire 1566, 1582, and 1634 is available online.