BEDFORD: Geographical and Historical information from the year 1898.


[Transcribed information from Kelly's Directory of Bedfordshire - 1898]

"BEDFORD, is a municipal and parliamentary borough, in the Northern division of the county, market and union town, head of a petty sessional division and county court district, in the rural deanery and archdeaconry of Bedford and diocese of Ely, 49 miles from London by the Midland railway and 63 by the London and North Western railway, 33 from Aylesbury, 47 from Banbury, 16 from Bletchley Junction, 15½ from Hitchin, 23 from Kettering, 21½ north-east from Leighton Buzzard, 20 north from Luton, 33½ from Market Harborough, 21 from Northampton, 47½ from Oxford, 49 from Rugby, 12 south-west ,from St. Neots, 16 from Wellingborough, 12 north-east from Woburn and 20 from Wolverton. The Midland railway has an important station here, midway between Leicester and London. The London and North Western railway branch, from Bletchley to Cambridge, and there joining the Great Eastern system, passes through Bedford, and affords direct communication at Bletchley with, the northern and western parts of the kingdom; end at Sandy this line also communicates with the Great Northern railway.

Bedford is a corporation by prescription of very high antiquity, probably of Saxon origin. The Britons were overthrown here by Cuthwulph, or Cuthwolfe, the Saxon; lin the year 571, and the place was of such importance a$ to attract the devastating inroads of the Danes, end being destroyed by them was repaired by Edward the Elder; who annexed a village on the south bank of the river Ouse, celled Mikes gate, now incorporated with it, and a ford from which it probably derives its Saxon name, "Bedicanford " (the protected ford), In the year following the Danes were repulsed by the townsmen of Bedford: but in 1010 they were more successful, and burned the town. William Rufus gave the barony of Bedford to Pain de Beauchamp, who built a strong castle on the north-east side of the town; this structure was surrounded by a vast entrenchment, as well as by a high and thick wall. During the contest between the barons and King John, in 1216, William de Beauchamp, being then possessed of the barony of Bedford, took part against the King, and delivered the castle up to the former; it was, however, very shortly afterwards wrested from the barons by Faukes de Brent (or Fawkee de Brennte), to whom it was given with the barony by the King as a reward for his services: the castle sustained three severe sieges previously to its being demolished by order of Henry III. : the foundations of the keep can still be traced, but the site has been converted into a bowling-green and ornamental flower grounds, attached to the Swan hotel.

The town is divided for municipal purposes into two wards, celled the East and West Wards: the corporation consists of a mayor, six aldermen and eighteen councilors, with a recorder, town clerk and the usual officers. The borough has a commission of the peace and a separate court of quarter sessions. Bedford sent two members to Parliament from the 23rd of Edward I. until the passing of the "Redistribution of Seats Act, 1885," when the number was reduced to one. The constituency consists of the freemen, and inhabitant householders not receiving alms, whose rights were reserved by the Act of 1832, in addition to the new qualifications created by the "Representation of the People Act." The municipal and parliamentary boroughs are co-extensive.

The town is pleasantly seated in a fertile valley, watered by the river Ouse, which passes through and divides it into two parts, connected by a handsome stone bridge of five elliptical arches, 306 feet long and 30 feet wide: the original bridge was of remote antiquity, but upon the demolition of the cantle, in the year 1224, a new bridge was erected, which having fallen into decay after the lapse of 600 years, was taken down and replaced by the present structure, designed and executed by John Wing esq. ; the first stone, was laid on the 26th oi August, 1811, by Francis, Marquess, of Tavistook (afterwards Duke of Bedford), on the solid rock, below the piles upon which the foundations of the ancient bridge were placed: it was completed and opened for public use on the: 1st of November, 1813, and. thrown open to the public, free of toll, on the 1st of July, 1835, There is now a second bridge, the foundation of which was laid by the Marquess of Tavistook M.P. Nov. 7th, 1883: it consists of three wrought-iron segmental arches, with ornamental cast-iron spandrels and parapets, the width of the river being 200 feet; the piers and abutments are of concrete, with stone and brick facings, and the road-way is 40ft. wide between the parapets, with approaches at the north and south sides of the river of about 200 yards each: the entire cost, from designs by Mr. John J. Webster, Assoc. M. Inst. was about £10,000, and it was opened to the public by Earl Cowper K.G. 21st October, 1884. An iron suspension bridge for foot passengers was opened for traffic in July, 1888, from designs by Mr. John J. Spencer Assoc. M. Inst.

The streets are generally wide, and from the numerous trees and shrubs which have been planted, the town presents an attractive and rural appearance, and is remarkably clean and very compact. On the north bank of the Ouse is an embankment, along which a fine roadway extends to Newnham in Goldington parish, nearly a mile eastwards, of the town: the land lying between the roadway and the river has been laid out with walks and ornamental flower-beds, and is well planted with trees and shrubs, thus forming a handsome promenade, to the north of which a new park is now (1898) being laid out. The river Ouse was once navigable from Bedford to Kings Lynn, but the traffic has, now ceased: regattas are held on the river periodically. The Bedfordshire Hunt Steeplechases are held yearly, the course, situated on the Kimbolton road, is 1½ miles round. The events take place under National Hunt Rules.

The town is well supplied with clear fresh water drawn through a horizontal shaft in the oolite limestone, at the northern boundary of the borough, and thence pumped into a reservoir on a neighbouring hill; the pressure being sufficient to give an adequate supply to the highest buildings throughout the town: the waterworks, on the Clapham road, are the property of the corporation, and were erected in 1866 at a cost of about £20,000.

A thorough system of drainage has been carried out; the outfall works are about one mile east of the Town (locally in Goldington), where the sewage is pumped end applied to about 222 acres of land, laid out for that purpose: the cost, including farm buildings and laying out irrigation works, was about £27,000.

The town is supplied with gas from works on the Ford End road, erected by a company in 1864. The streets are also lighted by electric lamps.

The town consists of five parishes, viz., St. Paul, St. Cuthbert, St. Mary, St. John, and St. Peter, and ecclesiastical parishes of the Holy Trinity, St. Leonard and St. Martin.

St. Pauls 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 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 suffragon 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: a stained window in memory of Sir Richard Thomas Gilpin bart. was unveiled by the Duchess of Bedford, in January, 1885, and in 1893 a memorial window was erected by T. Bull esq. J.P., to Sarah Ann, his wife, d. 13 May, 1891 : in the same year the organ was thoroughly cleaned and repaired and a new choir organ added at a cost of about £400 by Messrs, Norman Bros. & Beard: there are 1,400 sittings, of which 800 are free. The register dates, from the year 1559. The living is a vicarage, yearly value, £350, with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Ely; and held since 1886 by the Rev. Lambert Woodard M.A. of Jesus College, Cambridge, and surrogate.

All Saints Church, Queens Park, erected in 1896 as a chapel of ease to St. Pauls, is a plain edifice of brick, and will seat 500 persons. Rev. Ernest William Adams D.A. of Durham University, is curate in charge.

St. Cuthberts church, on the east side of the town, and so named in honour of St. Cuthbert of Durham, is said to have been founded by Offa, King of Mercia, A.D. 772, and, if so, would be the oldest existing ecclesiastical foundation in Bedford: the former building, consisting of a small nave and chancel under one roof, with a bell turret, was replaced in 1847 by the present edifice, which is of stone, in the Transition style, and was built at a cost of £2,100, on the site of the ancient church, erected in the 8th century: the church, which stands in a pretty and well-planted churchyard, consists of chancel, nave, aisles, transepts and a low but massive central tower, containing a bell : at the end of the north transept is a clock: the church has been twice enlarged; first in 1865, when the aisles were built at a cost of £1,600; and subsequently in 1877, when the building was extended westward; a cloister-porch added on the west front, and an organ chamber erected on the north side of the chancel, at a total cost of about £1,350) on the erection of a new organ chamber on the south side of the chancel in 1886, the former chamber was converted into a vestry: the organ, built at the same time, replaced the former organ, built in 1865; the total cost of organ and chamber was £616 : the fittings of the church are of solid oak, obtained from Chicheley Park, Bucks: the east window is stained, and contains a figure of St. Cuthbert; several other stained windows have been presented to the church as memorials: the communion plate includes an ancient silver chalice and a modern service, presented by Mr. T. Wooldridge: the brass lectern was the gift of the late Ald. Horsford, who also left a legacy in money, which has been expended in the erection of a massive oak screen between the chancel and the vestry, and in other improvements. The register dates from 1607, and contains, among other details of interest, the record of the baptism of a child of John Bunyan, who was sometime a parishioner of St. Cuthberts: Christ Church, in Castle road, a chapel of ease to St. Cuthberts, erected in 1883, at a cost of £1,150, is an iron structure: the organ was enlarged in 1887 at a cost of £65, and there are three stained windows with figures of saints : the church affords 1,200 sittings. The living is a rectory, net yearly value £170, including 17½ acres of glebe, with residence, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and held since 1897, by the Rev. William Frederick Lindesay D.A. of Merton College, Oxford. The rectory house stands in its own, grounds in St. Cuthberts street, near the church; and opposite is a school used both on Sundays and week days.

St. Mary's Church is an ancient building of stone, chiefly in the Perpendicular style, consisting of chancel, nave of four bays, aisles, transepts, north and west porches and an embattled eastern tower with pinnacles, containing a clock and 6 bells: the tower is a very good example of Norman work: the north aisle was built of the materials of a church called St. Peter Dunstable, which formerly stood in St. Mary's square: in 1853 a vestry and south aisle were added by subscription: the stained east and west windows are memorials and there are numerous mural tablets: in 1882 the chancel roof was renewed by the present rector, and one window of the chancel re-opened and restored: the mortuary chapel, on the north side of the chancel, was also enlarged, and new roofed, and is now used as an organ chamber: the church plate includes a chalice, dated 1570, and a paten, dated 1685: the church will seat 550 persons, including 100 children. The register dates from the year 1540. The living is a rectory, yearly value £436, with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Lincoln (two turns), and of Balliol College, Oxford (one turn), and held since 1895 by the Rev. George Henry Pratt M.A. of Wadham College, Oxford.

St. John's church in St. John street, is a building of stone in the Early English and Decorated styles, and was thoroughly restored by subscription in 1869-70, at a cost of about £1,000, and re-opened in June of the latter year : it consists of chancel, nave, west porch and an embattled western tower containing one bell: on the south side of the chancel are piscina and sedilia, discovered and restored during the repair of the church : in 1890 a stone reredos was presented to the church by the patron: there are upwards of 250 sittings. The register dates from the year 1669. The living is a rectory, net yearly value £370, with 4¾ acres of glebe and residence, in the gift of F. Aldridge Clark esq. and held since 1889 by the Rev. William Owen Parker Ford M.A. of Christ's College, Cambridge.

The church of St. Peter, on the north side of St. Peters green, is a building of stone, consisting of chancel with vestry; nave, aisles, west porch and a low central embattled tower containing a clock and 6 bells: the church was originally outside the walls of the tower of Bedford, and was called "St. Peter's-in-the-Fields," and also St, Peter de Merton, in order to distinguish it from St. Peters de Dunstable, which stood below the bridge, in what is now St. Mary's square: the Norman south doorway of this church is said to have belonged to the latter; the tower, of rubble and cement, is undoubtedly Saxon, and affords fine examples of long and short work; the circular arch, a Norman feature, was, however, added to the upper part of the tower some years ago, and belfry windows, copied from St. Mary's, were introduced on three sides of the tower: the effects of the fire when the church was partly burnt by the Danes in 1010 may be seen, especially on the east side of the tower, many of the stones having become calcined, cracked, and of the colour of brick: the foundation, and much of the north wall of the chancel is also Saxon: it originally ended in an apse, but on its restoration during the Early English period the area was reduced and a triple lancet window inserted, for which the present Decorated east window was substituted when Dr. Hunt was rector: the church was enlarged in 1846 and again in 1853: the north aisle was lengthened westward in 1882, and the organ chamber and vestry and a bell turret built in 1883: the south aisle was lengthened in 1885: the stained east window is a memorial to Mrs. Chapple and her son, and was the gift of John Chapple esq., of St. Albans, clerk of the works at St. Albans Cathedral, Herts, during its restoration by the late Sir G. Gilbert Scott B.A. : the three other windows are also stained: there are sittings for about 600 persons. The register dates from the year 1572. The living is a rectory, rent-charge £5, yearly value £600, with residence, in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and held since 1871 by the Rev. William Hart-Smith M.A. of Brasenose College, Oxford, rural dean of Bedford and surrogate.

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 register dates from the year 1841. The living is a vicarage, gross yearly value £466, with residence, in the gift of the vicar of St. Paul's, and held since 1880 by the Rev. George Arthur Willan M.A. of St. Johns College, Cambridge.

The ecclesiastical district of St. Leonard's was formed from St. Mary's parish by Order in Council dated August, 1889. The church of St. Leonard the Confessor, in the Victoria road, is a temporary iron structure seating 450 persons. The register dates from the year 1889. The living is a vicarage, gross yearly value £150, in the gift of the rector of St. Mary's, and held since 1894 by the Rev. Vitruvius Partridge Wyatt M.A. of Queens College, Cambridge, assistant chaplain of the Chapel Royal, Savoy.

The ecclesiastical parish of St. Martin was formed out of the parish of Holy Trinity by Order in Council dated December 6, 1896. The church, which stands on the Clapham road, erected at a cost, including site, of £5,200, was dedicated October, 1889, by the Lord Bishop of Ely, and is an edifice of brick, with Bath stone dressings, in the Early English style, from the designs of Mr. J. A. Chatwin, architect, of Birmingham, and consists of chancel, with aisle, organ chamber, vestry, nave of four bays, aisles, transepts, western baptistery and a detached wooden belfry containing one bell: in 1898 a stained memorial window was placed in the south aisle: there are 740 sittings. The register dates from the year 1896. The living is a vicarage, yearly value £24, with fees amounting to £12 and offertories, in the gift of the Bishop of Ely, and held since 1896 by the Rev. Alfred Hawkins Jones LL.D. of the University of London, and curate in charge from 1888. A Sunday School for 200 children was built in 1894, and enlarged in 1897.

St. Cuthbert's Mission hall, at the corner of Newnham street and opposite St. Cuthbert's church was erected in 1891-2, at a total cost, including site (£345) of £2,000, and is an edifice of red brick, with red rubbed brick and stone dressings, in the Early English style, from designs by Mr. W. B. Davis, architect, of Bedford; it contains a large hall, 60 ft. by 30 ft. with a platform 25 ft. by 12 ft. a reading room 30 ft. by 20 ft. constructed so as to open to the large hall and serve as a gallery; lavatories and offices have been provided in the rear. The large hall will seat 300 persons, and with the platform and gallery affords about 450 sittings. The hall is used for work connected with the Sunday school, bible classes, lectures and educational classes, as well as for Evangelistic meetings and mission purposes. In the evening it serves as a working men's club, and in the winter as a soup kitchen, and for mothers' meetings, parish clubs, and other agencies.

The Catholic church, in Midland and Brereton roads, and dedicated to The Holy Child and St. Joseph, is a lofty building of stone in the Early Decorated style, consisting of chancel, clerestoried nave and aisles: provision has been made for extending one end of the church, and when complete it will have a fine tower with broach spire: the altar, erected in 1864, by subscriptions collected by the children of the congregation, is of Bath stone, with the figures, in canopied niches, of King David, St. Gregory the Great, St, Andrew and St. Nicholas: over the high altar is a stained window, also the gift of children, and exhibiting incidents in the life of Our Lord: in 1887 a bede altar of Bath stone and marbles was erected from designs by Mr. A. E. Purdue, and is adorned with figures of Our Lord, the Blessed Virgin and various saints: in1864 a fine stained window was erected in the chapel as a memorial: both these additions were the gift of a member of the congregation: there are 250 sittings : the Rev. Robert 0. Middleton is priest in charge: attached to the church is a presbytery.

The Bunyan Meeting(Union of Baptists and Congregationalists), in Mill street, was rebuilt in 1849, on the site of the former chapel, known as the "Old Meeting," itself erected in 1707, on the site of the building of which John Bunyan was the minister (1672-1688): his chair is preserved in the vestry, and a tablet in the vestry records that he was for 12 years a prisoner in Bedford County Gaol: the church was established in 1650: in 1876 the Duke of Bedford gave two massive bronze doors for the principal entrance; these have 10 panels, each of which, by Thrupp, represents in bold relief, a scene from his famous allegory, "The Pilgrims Progress," the first part of which was written during his second imprisonment in the town gaol on Bedford bridge (1675-6) : the chapel has sittings for 1,078 persons. A hall for school and other purposes was attached to this chapel in the year 1866.

The Howard Congregational church, in Mill Street, was originally founded by John Howard, the philanthropist, and others in 1772, and enlarged in 1849. In 1862 a school room and various class rooms were erected to celebrate the thirty years' ministry of the Rev. William Alliott: the church will seat 700 persons.

The Baptist chapel, Rothsay road, built in 1894 at a cost of £3,700, is of red brick and stone, and will seat 650: attached is a Sunday School for 150 children, with class rooms beneath.

The Wesleyan chapel, in Harpur street, built in 1832, was restored in 1889 at a cost of £1,600, and will seat 1,000. The Wesleyan chapel, in Bromham road, built in 1877, will seat 650. The Wesleyan chapel, Cauldwell street, was built in 1862 at a cost of £4,000, and will seat 400.

Here are also the following chapels, with the number of sittings specified :- Baptist, Mill street, 660 ; Catholic Apostolic, Gwyn street, 233. Brethren, Bedford hall, Greenhill street, 200. Primitive Methodists, Cauldwell street, 300 ; Hassett street, 424; Park road, 200. Theistic Harpur street, 100. Zion (Huntingdonian), Lurke street, 137. Christadelphian, Alexandra place, 100. Mornvian, St. Peter's street, 500. Salvation Army Congress Hall, River street, 1,300.

The school belonging to St. Paul's Wesleyan chapel erected from designs by Messrs. Usher and Anthony architects, Bedford, at a cost of about £2,500, has a fine assembly room 71 feet long and 32 feet wide: on the ground floor are numerous class rooms, a committee room and convenient rooms for tea and other social meetings.

The Cemetery, Foster's hill, opened in 1855, covers an area of 16 acres, about 11 acres of which is consecrated, and has two mortuary chapels of stone, in the Gothic style, under one roof; all the windows are stained; the ground is laid out with great taste and contains a valuable collection of the best varieties of ornamental trees ; it is under the control of a burial board of 40 members.

The Municipal buildings in St. Paul's square, for many years occupied by the Grammar School, were purchased by the corporation, together with Merton House and the head masters residence, on the removal of the school to the new buildings near De Pary's avenue. The old school premises have been since adapted to municipal purposes, and now include a Town Hall, council chamber, the offices of the town clerk, borough surveyor, sanitary inspector and rate collector, and there are besides various ante-rooms.

The Corn Exchange, occupying a prominent position on the north side of St. Paul's square, is an edifice of white brick with Bath stone cornices and Pennan stone dressings, in the Italian style, and was built at a cost of about £9,000, exclusive of site, and opened by his Grace the Duke of Bedford, April 15th; 1874. It contains a spacious assembly room, supper room and several offices: the hall is 100 feet long and 85 feet wide, and is lighted and ventilated by three glazed domes; it is used for balls, entertainments, and public meetings, as well as for the corn market, and has at one end a large platform with a dressing room at each side; the hall will seat 1,000 persons. In the course of excavation for the structure, a number of bones, skulls, and other human remains were discovered. The building in St. Paul's square, originally designed for a corn exchange, was erected in 1849 by a company, at a cost of £2,000, and subsequently purchased by the corporation, and is now used as a flower and vegetable market.

The Shire Hall, in St. Paul's square, was erected in 1753, and rebuilt 1879-82, at a cost of about £20,000, from designs by Mr. A. Waterhouse A.R.A. architect, of London; the assizes, quarter sessions, borough and division petty sessions, county courts, County Council meetings and committee meetings are held here; the hall is also the head quarters of the county constabulary.

Her Majesty's Prison, in St. Loyes street, was rebuilt in 1849, at a cost of about £23,000, on the separate and silent system: there are 184 cells for males; houses for the governor and chief warder are attached.

The Borough Police Station is now in Commercial Road.

The County Police Station is in Gadsby street.

The Bedford Rooms, in Harpur street, originally erected by a company, form a find building in the Classic style, with a portico supported by four fluted pillars. The whole building is now (1898) used as library. The County Theatre, formerly the Central Hall, is now (1898) in course of conversion. The Bedford Literary and Scientific Institute and General Library, was established in 1830, and its committee became the owners of the whole of the buildings in 1884, The valuable library comprises about 16,000 volumes, and there is also a public news room, where most of the daily and many weekly papers are provided, besides a large number of periodicals. The Bedfordshire Archaeological and Natural History Society is now amalgamated with the Institute, and its transactions are published in association with several kindred societies in the Midlands. There is also a County Agricultural Society, the meetings of which are held at the Swan hotel.

The Working Men's Institute, Harpur street, erected in 1856, at a cost of £1,383, is an edifice of red brick with stone dressings, in the Gothic style, and contains a reading room, well supplied with newspapers, a library of about 3,500 volumes, a lecture room 45 by 30 feet, and chess and bagatelle rooms. The reading room, doubled in size in 1880, is open to the public on payment of one penny per visit; and to artisans on low rates of subscription ; there are 400 members.

The Bedford Town and County Club, opened in 1885, for the gentry of the town and county, has now (1898) about 220 members. The building contains dining room, smoke, billiard, reading and writing rooms, and lavatories &c. and there are steward's quarters in rear of the building. The windows over the main entrance command a fine view of the river Ouse and surrounding country.

The Conservative Club, in St. Peters street, opened in September, 1889, at a cost of about £5,000, is a building of stone with Bath and Doulting stone dressings in the English Domestic style: the principal front has two large bays reaching the whole height of the building, and a spacious porch with a balcony above: there are three lofty floors containing entrance hall, committee and secretary's rooms: a concert hall, 48 ft. by 30 ft. 9 ins. and seating 280 persons, reading room, billiard room, 48 by 30 ft., smoke and cloak rooms, a bar, and stewards quarters, lavatories &c. ; there are 1120 members.

The Liberal Club, on the south side of the Midland road, and belonging to a company, is a building of red brick, with red Mansfield stone dressings, in the Queen Anne style, erected from the designs of Messrs. Usher and Anthony of this town, at a cost of about £3,000: the principal front has two fine circular bow windows to both floors : on the ground floor is a spacious lecture room, 45 by 30 ft. which can be converted into two reading rooms ; on the first floor is a lofty and well- ventilated billiard room, and smoking and card rooms: there is also a committee room and kitchen, and in the rear a caretaker's house.

The Bedford Club, in De Pary's avenue, the property of the Bedford Club and Bowling Green Company, Lim. was erected in 1885, and is a substantial edifice of brick with stone dressings in the Elizabethan style, designed by Messrs. Henry Young and A. E. Anthony, joint architects and members of the club, and has high pitched gables with the town arms carved in the centre. The interior comprises a large reading, smoking and billiard rooms, and steward's and other offices; in the rear is a large garden with a bowling green and tennis lawn.

The principal hotels are "The Swan," "The George," "The Lion," and "The Embankment."

Four newspapers are published here, viz. the "Beds Times and Independent," the "Bedfordshire Mercury," the "Bedford and County Record," and the "Bedfordshire Standard."

A market is held every Saturday for corn, cattle and general produce. The cattle market is held in the Commercial road, near the centre of the town; and there are also private sale yards for holding stock sales on the Saturday weekly market days. Fairs, principally for cattle, are held on the 21st and 22nd of April and October 12th, and are well attended, and there is a wool fair on the first Tuesday in July; the two fairs in April and October are also pleasure fairs. The wool fair is held in the Commercial road, and attracts a large number of dealers. Races are now discontinued, but steeplechases are still held.

In the market place is a stone drinking fountain presented in 1870, as a memorial to the late T. W. Turnley, editor, of Bedford.

The Britannia Iron Works, the property of Messrs. James and Frederick Howard, occupy an area of about 20 acres. Tramways extend all round the works for the conveyance of materials to and from the different departments, the largest of which is the foundry, a rectangular building, more than 250 feet long, and covering about an acre ; the departments for fitting, forging, finishing, painting, and forwarding are all admirably adapted to their various purposes ; these magnificent works are built in part of the site of Caldwell Priory, founded about he year 1200: the Midland and London and North-Western railways run into the works, and the river Ouse, which is navigable by steamers and barges to the sea flows alongside and combines with the railways to give these works almost unrivalled advantages in the transit of goods. Messrs. Grafton & Co. are manufacturers of cranes for steam and hand power, overhead travellers, winding engines and all kinds of lifting machinery for foreign markets, and are contractors to the Admiralty and War Office. There are also other important manufactories of agricultural implements, as well as of brick and tile making machines, belonging to Messrs. E. Page and Co of High street and Mill street, and in the town are several breweries, maltings, and coach factories: pillow lace is also made here to a limited extent.

The Bedford Engineering Company's works are in Ampthill road ; the company are manufacturers of electric, steam and hand cranes and hoisting machinery for home and foreign markets and are also government contractors.

Bedford is the headquarters of the Regimental district, No. 16, comprising the 1st and 2nd battalions (16th foot) Bedfordshire Regiment, 3rd battalion (Bedford Militia) and 4th battalion (Herts Militia). The Bedford Regimental Depot Barracks, on the Kempston road, about 1 mile west of the town, were erected by Government in 1875-6, at a cost of about £50,000; the buildings form three sides of a quadrangle, and occupy 23 acres, 13 of which serve as an encampment, drill and recreation ground, and also include garden allotments: the east and west wings of the north front are connected by a central block with four massive towers, holding upwards of 3,000 stand of arms and accoutrements, besides stores for the Army Reserve in case of mobilization, and a powder magazine, clothing and bedding stores: the west wing includes the officer's mess, and quarters for eleven officers and their servants: the east wing consists of a canteen, reading and recreation rooms, sergeants' mess, men's school, besides workshops and stores; the buildings on either side are available for about 288 soldiers (single) and eight sergeants, and include a hospital with the requisite accommodation and staff, a residence for a hospital sergeant, and detached infectious ward and mortuary: there are also married soldiers quarters for 31 families, this also including warrant officers' quarters.

Bedford is also the head quarters of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment.

At the south-west corner of St. Peter's green, on a square pedestal of granite, stands the statue of John Bunyan presented June 10, 1874 by the Duke of Bedford: the figure, which is about 10 feet high, was designed by Sir J. E. Boehm bart. and cast from cannon and bells brought from China : it contains about 23 tons, of bronze. The idea which the sculptor has striven to work out is embodied in an inscription at the back of the pedestal, taken from Bunyan's description of the picture Christian saw hung against the wall in Interpreters house of "a very grave person:" the figure, clad in the Puritan costume of Bunyan's day, stands in a natural position, with an open bible in the left hand, and the likeness is reproduced from a contemporary painting by Sadler; at the feet of the statue is a broken fetter, typifying the imprisonment to which he was doomed for the offence of preaching; on the front and two sides of the pedestal are scenes, in bold relief, from "The Pilgrims Progress," representing Christians fight with Apollyon; Evangelist directing Christian to the wicket gate; and the Pilgrim met by the Three Shining Ones; the statue is surrounded by 8 stone pillars and iron chains.

The monument to John Howard, the distinguished prison philanthropist, stands on Market Hill, on a site granted for the purpose by the Corporation; it consists of a statue in bronze modelled by Alfred Gilbert esq. R.A. representing the great philanthropist in travelling dress and in an attitude of thought: the pedestal forms a drinking fountain. The, memorial was unveiled March 28 1894.

The local charities include Christie's Almshouses, for eight unmarried persons ; a school for 40 children, now incorporated with the Harpur schools; and the Hospital of St. John the Baptist, founded in the reign of Edward III. for a master and ten co-brethren, the mastership being annexed to St. John's Rectory, and the revived Hospital of St. Leonard. The Harpur trust provides 41 almshouses for aged couples, and a sum of money distributed yearly for the relief of decayed housekeepers : there are numerous other charities.

The Bedford General Infirmary, on the Ampthill road, in a spacious park-like grounds, with a good avenue of trees, sheltering the approaches from the Kempston and Ampthill roads, was erected, in 1803 with funds bequeathed chiefly by Samuel Whitbread esq. and is a large structure of brick, consisting of a centre and two wings, and available for 70 in-patients. The committee of management hold weekly meetings on friday, and the governors meet once a quarter. This building is now (1888) being replaced by a new hospital to contain 90 beds, erecting from designs by Mr, H. Percy Adams F.R.I.B.A., of Woburn place, London, at an estimated cost of £34,000, towards which sum the Duke of Bedford and Mr. S. Whitbread, the president of the institution, have generously given £5,000 each. The new buildings include a chapel. The Nurses' Home, a detached structure, was erected in commemoration of the sixtieth year of Her Majesty's reign, at a cost of £1,750. The yearly average of in-patients is about 650, and the out-patients, for whom a separate department is provided, number about 4,000 annually.

The Hospital of St. Leonard the Confessor, originally founded about the year 1300 by an unknown benefactor, for the sick, paralyzed, and lepers, was known as the Poor House of St. Leonard, in which were six freres or brother chapleynes, wearing a religious habit. It was of considerable local importance, and in 1535 drew as much as £20 per annum (a large sum at that date) from one branch of its revenues. After the Reformation it fell into disuse, and the last ruins of the building were removed on the construction of the London and North Western railway. In 1889 (Nov. 6) the hospital was revived, and now has buildings near St. Leonard's Church, in Victoria road. The present foundation has three main objects: To form an association of religious and philanthropic persons; for which purpose there are special services and gatherings from time to time; the supplying of convalescent diets to patients at their own homes: the procuring of letters for patients for Convalescent Homes, or aiding them with funds to go to the sea or country or a change. All persons in Bedford, in whatever parish they reside, are eligible, but when the number of applicants is beyond the capabilities of the kitchen, a preference is given to dwellers in St. Leonard's district; all members of friendly societies have also a prior claim, one of the principles of the hospital being to help really deserving people who are trying to help themselves by habits of prudence and thrift. The number of members and associates is now (1898) nearly 70.

BEDFORD PARK, opened July 11th, 1888, by the then Marquess of Tavistock, is situated immediately at the foot of the Cemetery hill, and comprises 61 acres, one of the properties of the St. John's Trust, but devoted to the purposes of a recreation ground by Act of Parliament in 1881. It has been formed and laid out by the corporation, and includes a piece of ornamental water; a pavilion, shelters, and a lodge and entrance gates.

The cloisters and refectory of an ancient house of Grey Friars, founded in 1311 by Mabel Pateshull, now form part of a farm-house, situated in Priory street. A monastery existed here in the Saxon period, and was selected by Offa, King of Mercia, for his burial place, but a sudden and unusually high inundation of the Ouse swept way his sepulchre. At the bottom of a yard, leading out of High street, are the remains of a building of considerable interest, erected in the 14th century, which some have supposed, from tracery in the windows and either ornaments, to have been a monastic establishment: it was, however, part of the Old George inn, an important house of entertainment for travellers in ancient days. About 2 miles from Bedford and encircled by the Ouse, is a meadow called "Kings Mead," a very ancient possession of the corporation, but sold by them about 1880 to Mr. S. C. Whitbread.

The population of the Municipal and Parliamentary borough in 1891 was 28,023; viz. : males, 12,329; and females, 15,694.

The population of the municipal wards, 1891 was:- eastern, 15,254; western, 10,769.

The population of the ecclesiastical parishes in 1891 was:- Holy Trinity, 9,390; St; Leonard, 2,329; St. Mary the Virgin, 2,549; St, Paul, 5,601.

A large number of retired officers, widows of clergymen and professional men, reside in and near Bedford, in order to secure the educational advantages afforded in the town; and many houses have been built and are still being erected in the outskirts to suit their requirements.

The number of inhabited houses in June, 1897, was 6,710, containing a population of 33,550.

The number of electors on the parliamentary register in 1898 was 4,500.

There are 20¾ miles of public streets and roads; 8 miles of main roads, and about 7 miles of private streets."

[Description(s) transcribed by Martin Edwards ©2003 and later edited by Colin Hinson ©2013]
[from Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]