Sunday, 11 October 2009

Bedfordshire:Place in Bernard Cornwell's SaxonvSeries ****

Bedfordshire (pronounced /ˈbɛdfərdʃər/ or /ˈbɛdfərdʃɪər/; abbreviated Beds.) is a ceremonial county of historic origin in England that forms part of the East of England region.It borders Cambridgeshire to the North East, Northamptonshire to the North, Buckinghamshire (and the Borough of Milton Keynes) to the West and Hertfordshire to the South East.The highest elevation point is 243 metres (797 ft) on Dunstable Downs in the Chilterns.

As part of a 2002 marketing campaign, the plant conservation charity Plantlife chose the Bee Orchid as the county flower.
The traditional nickname for people from Bedfordshire is "Bedfordshire Bulldogs" or "Clangers", this last deriving from a local dish comprising a suet crust dumpling filled with meat or jam or both.


1. Bedford 2. Central Bedfordshire 3. Luton

Bedfordshire is an English shire county which lies between approximately 25 miles and 55 miles (or approximately 40 and 90 kilometres) north of central London.

The first recorded use of the name was in 1011 as "Bedanfordscir", meaning the shire or county of Bedford, which itself means "Beda's ford" (river crossing).
Anglian Bedfordshire
The Angle invaders were naturally attracted to Bedfordshire by its abundant water supply and suitability for agriculture, but the remains of their settlements are few and scattered. With one exception, they all occur south of the River Ouse. Evidence of Anglian occupation has been found at a cemetery at Kempston, where both male and female graves dating from the fifth century.
The name in its old form is "kemestun" which includes the Brittonic word "cambio" meaning bent or curved. Therefore, the name meant when coined "the enclosed settlement on the bend". The bend was that of the River Great Ouse, noted for its sharp bends upstream of Bedford. It is, however, also possible that "cambita" (the curved one) was the name given to this stretch of the river by the Celtic-speaking population. In this case the name could have developed like that of the river Kembs in the French Department of Haut Rhin. Kempston is also a family name for many individuals from British Ancestry. Kempston was recorded as "camestone" in the Domesday Book and had a 6th-century Anglo Saxon burial site, now home to the Saxon Centretury have been discovered as well as a settlement near Biggleswade.

In the Fifth century AD, Saxon invaders settled here - the name Biggleswade is thought to be derived from Biceil, an Anglo-Saxon personal name and Waed, the Saxon word for ford.

Political History
Early reference to Bedfordshire's political history is scanty. In 571 Cuthwulf inflicted a severe defeat on the Britons at Bedford and took four towns. During the Heptarchy (The word heptarchy refers to the existence (as was thought) of seven kingdoms, which eventually merged to become the basis for the Kingdom of England; these were Northumbria, Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Wessex. The period supposedly lasted until the seven kingdoms began to consolidate into larger units, but the actual events marking this transition are debatable. At various times within the conventional period, certain rulers of Northumbria, Mercia and Wessex (such as Penda of Mercia) claimed hegemony over larger areas of England; yet as late as the reigns of Eadwig and Edgar (955–75), it was still possible to speak of separate kingdoms within the English population). what is now the shire formed part of Mercia; by the Treaty of Wedmore it became Danish territory, but it was recovered by King Edward (919-921). The first actual mention of the county comes in 1016 when King Canute laid waste to the whole shire.

Model of Bedfordshire Castle

There was no organised resistance to William the Conqueror within Bedfordshire, though the Domesday survey reveals an almost complete substitution of Norman for English landholders. Bedfordshire suffered severely in the civil war of King Stephen's reign; the great Roll of the Exchequer of 1165 proves the shire receipts had depreciated in value to two-thirds of the assessment for the Danegeld. Again the county was thrown into the First Barons' War when Bedford Castle, seized from the Beauchamps by Falkes de Breauté one of the royal partisans, was the scene of three sieges before being demolished on the king's order in 1224 .

Corn Exchange Bedford

The Peasants Revolt (1377–1381) was marked by less violence in Bedfordshire than in neighboring counties; the Annals of Dunstable make brief mention of a rising in that town and the demand for and granting of a charter.In 1638 ship money was levied on Bedfordshire, (Ship money refers to a tax that Charles I of England tried to levy without the consent of Parliament. In medieval times, this tax, which was only applied to coastal towns during a time of war, was intended to offset the cost of defending that part of the coast, and could be paid in actual ships or the equivalent value) and in the English Civil War that followed, the county was one of the foremost in opposing the king. Clarendon observes that here Charles I had no visible party or fixed quarter. The earliest original parliamentary writ that has been discovered was issued in 1290 when two members were returned for the county. In 1295 in addition to the county members, writs are found for two members to represent Bedford borough. Subsequently until modern times two county and two borough members were returned regularly.

Towns and Cities of Bedfordshire

Before 1835 Bedfordshire was divided into nine hundreds, (A hundred is a geographic division formerly used in England, Wales, Denmark, South Australia, some parts of the United States, Germany (Southern Schleswig), Sweden, Finland and Norway, which historically was used to divide a larger region into smaller administrative divisions. Alternative names include wapentake, herred (Danish, Norwegian), härad (Swedish), Harde (German) and kihlakunta (Finnish).The name is derived from the number one hundred. It may once have referred to an area liable to provide a hundred men under arms, or containing roughly a hundred homesteads, or to a small parcel (thus loosely a hundredth) of a territory. It was a traditional Germanic system described as early as AD 98 by Tacitus (the centeni).)
Barford, Biggleswade, Clifton, Flitt, Manshead, Redbornestoke, Stodden, Willey and Wixamtree, and the liberty, half hundred or borough of Bedford. From the Domesday survey it appears that in the 11th century there were three additional half hundreds, viz. Stanburge, Buchelai and Weneslai, which had by the 14th century become parts of the hundreds of Manshead, Willey and Biggleswade respectively. Until 1574 one sheriff did duty for Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire, the shire court of the former being held at Bedford. The jurisdiction of the hundred courts, excepting Flitt, remained in the king's possession. Flitt was parcel of the manor of Luton, and formed part of the marriage portion of Eleanor, sister of Henry III, and wife of William Marshall. The burgesses of Bedford and the prior of Dunstable claimed jurisdictional freedom in those two boroughs. The hundred Rolls and the Placita de quo warranto show that important jurisdiction had accrued to the great over-lordships, such as those of Beauchamp, Wahull and Caynho, and to several religious houses, the prior of St John of Jerusalem claiming rights in more than fifty places in the county.

Geology, landscape and ecology
The southern end of the county is part of the chalk ridge known as the Chiltern Hills. The remainder is part of the broad drainage basin of the River Great Ouse and its tributaries.
Most of Bedfordshire's rocks are clays and sandstones from the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, with some limestone. Local clay has been used for brick-making of Fletton style bricks in the Marston Vale. Glacial erosion of chalk has left the hard flint nodules deposited as gravel – this has been commercially extracted in the past at pits which are now lakes, at Priory Country Park, Wyboston and Felmersham.The Greensand Ridge is an escarpment across the county from near Leighton Buzzard to near Gamlingay in Cambridgeshire.

Bedfordshire is relatively dry being situated in the east of England. Average annual rainfall is 584.4mm at Bedford. Rain falls more frequently than every other day in autumn and winter but falls are normally light, conversely spring and summer generally sees more dry days but heavier individual falls of rain, of note were the 1998 Easter floods. In most years there is a spell lasting between 2 and 3 weeks in which no rain at all falls. Between November and April some snow can be expected from time to time but it is rarely heavy. Average temperatures in Bedford range from a minimum of 0.6C overnight in February to 21.5C during the day in July and August.

Bibliographic references
• History of Bedfordshire 1066-1888 by Joyce Godber
• A Bedfordshire Bibliography by L R Conisbe published in 1962 with a supplement in 1967
• Bedfordshire Historical Record Society by H O White (published annually).
• Guide to the Bedfordshire Record Office 1957 with supplements.
• Guide to the Russell Estate Collections Published in 1966.
• Elstow Moot Hall leaflets On John Bunyan and 17th Century Subjects
• A Bedfordshire Flora by John Dony
• Luton and the Hat Industry by John Dony
• Pillow Lace in the East Midlands by Charles Freeman
• Bedfordshire Magazine (Published Quarterley)

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