Bedford town has long been established since the Danes conquered the area in the late 9th century. They pillaged the town in 1010. We start the tour at the Bedford Museum where there is a car park and art gallery.
STOP 1: BEDFORD MUSEUM - N52° 08.156 W000° 27.854
This museum houses much of the human and natural history of Bedford and the surrounding area. The building has gone through much change as it originally was a brewery, then a post office sorting facility and Castle Works, a working factory. It still bears the ghost sign as evidence of this! The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery also resides in the building.
STOP 2: BEDFORD CASTLE - N52° 08.122 W000° 27.807
This 11th century castle mound is all that remains of the original castle. Recently the area has had major renovation work completed and a new mosaic, information boards and special touches with Castle litter bins add interest to the area. There is a path leading around and up the mound and a wooden structure on the edge.
The design is an earthwork motte and bailey fortress, founded by Ralf de Tallebosc. In the 12th century a stone castle was created by Paye de Beauchamp by cladding the castle with stone and adding a keep. Unfortunately the castle was then dismantled in 1224 in the great seige. The northern part of the motte was used as an ice house which now exists as a storage space in the mound.
STOP 3: THE TOWN BRIDGE - N52° 08.085 W000° 27.960
The Town Bridge in Bedford town is an ancient crossing over the River Great Ouse. This attractive stone, arch bridge spans the river with five large arches. You can walk underneath the arches at the south end when the river is not flooded. Families enjoy feeding the swans and ducks here. The centre arch is 3.3m high and the bridge marks the end of The Embankment area of town. There are several interesting plaques on the bridge, including one to John Bunyan.
Bedfordshire Libraries' Timelinevisit link shows in '796: King Offa, the strongest ruler in Britain since the Romans, dies. A medieval chronicler called Matthew Paris, records a tradition that he was buried in Bedford'. It is said to be near to the Town Bridge in the river.
STOP 4: JOHN HOWARD STATUE - N 52° 08.131 W 000° 27.977
This statue is of a famous, historic figure. John Howard was the famous prison reformer of the world 1726 - 1790. In 1773 he accepted an invitation to become High Sheriff of Bedford. Part of his duties was prison inspection. He was apalled by Bedford Gaol's condition and thought that the reason behind the suffering was the fact that the prisoner had to pay the gaoler, not the other way round. He thought the prisoners should be paid a salary but the system failed to see it that way. As a result of his findings locally he toured the world inspecting prisons and in 1777 and 1787 he published his findings; in some countries the books were banned as they were so shocking.
STOP 5: GLENN MILLER AND THE CORN EXCHANGE - N 52° 08.151 W 000° 28.045
This bust is of a famous wartime hero. Glenn Miller was born on March 1st 1904, in Clarinda, Iowa, USA and mysteriously disappeared on Friday December 15th 1944.
It was after D-Day that Glenn was due to relocate to the European Theatre of Operations beginning with a Christmas Eve performance in the newly liberated Paris. He had planned to travel on ahead of the band to ensure necessary preparations had been made for their concert performance and although bad weather delayed his original flight Major Glenn Miller took off from RAF Twinwood in a small aircraft on Friday December 15th 1944 at 13.55 hrs. He was never seen again.
Bedford Corn Exchange visit link describes the following: '9 July 1944
First concert by Glenn Miller in the Lombardo Hall (now known as the Main Auditorium) at Bedford Corn Exchange.'
STOP 6: THE OLD GAOL - N 52° 08.225 W 000° 28.009
This large paver stone commemorates the gaol where John Bunyan was held prisoner. It reads as follows:
'ON THIS SITE STOOD THE BEDFORD COUNTY GAOL WHERE JOHN BUNYAN WAS IMPRISONED FOR TWELVE YEARS 1660 - 1672'
STOP 7: JOHN BUNYAN STATUE - N 52° 08.333 W 000° 27.996
John Bunyan was a figure of immense importance and lived between 1628 - 1688. The statue stands in Bedford town centre on the corner of St Peter's and Tavistock Street near to St Peter's Church. The nine foot high statue was donated by Hastings, Duke of Bedford, in 1874.
STOP 8: THE BUNYAN MUSEUM - N 52° 08.203 W 000° 27.804
This local museum describes the life of John Bunyan. The museum is maintained by the Bunyan Meeting Church which is next door and the Borough Council has the following details:
'The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan, is one of the best selling books of all time. He was a religious leader whose influence has been felt throughout the whole world, and who has given hope to thousands. He was a man of such strong principles that he was prepared to be a prisoner of conscience for 12 long years. This Church, which bears his name, has a large collection of Bunyan artefacts and memorabilia. These are housed in a purpose-built Museum.'
Bedfordshire Libraries' Timeline visit link
describes how Bunyan helped Terry Waite whilst held as a hostage: '1988: Terry Waite, the envoy of the Archbishop of Canterbury, receives a postcard depicting a stained glass window of John Bunyan in the Bunyan Meeting, Bedford. It was sent by from Joy and Graham Brodier. The post card was addressed to "Terry Waite, c/o Hezbollah, Party of God, Beirut, Lebanon". Mr. Waite was finally released from captivity in 1991 after spending four years as a captive.'
This concludes the tour and has taken you back to your car which is parked just round the corner.