Earliest Times - 1800
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
886: Bedford becomes a boundary town between the Danes and King Alfred of Wessex
899: After the death of King Alfred the Danes successfully occupy Bedford
915: Edward the Elder (Alfred's son) manages to take control of the area around Bedford
1009-1010: More trouble with the Danes who sailed along the Ouse "and ever burnt as they went"
1066: Bedford is seized by the Norman army after the defeat of King Harold by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings. William grants land to Ralf de Tallebosc which includes Bedford. Ralf begins to rebuild Bedford Castle
1087: Hugh de Beauchamp is granted the Barony of Bedford by William and rebuilds Bedford castle in stone
1137: During the civil wars between King Stephen and Queen Matilda, King Stephen tries to take Bedford castle away from the Beauchamp family, and there is a siege. Miles de Beauchamp looses the castle but regains it in 1141 at the end of the wars.
1153: Augustinian Priory founded at Cauldwell
1166: Bedford receives a town charter from Henry II
1180: St. John's Church founded as the private chapel of St. John's Hospital
1215: The Barons meet at Bedford castle in a minor rebellion against King John. King John sends Falkes de Breaute, a mercenary, to attack it
1224: The great siege of Bedford castle. Henry III defeats Falkes de Breaute (who had rather flagrantly been abusing the law) and hangs 80 of his men
1238: Franciscan friars arrive in Bedford
1442: In this year "William Wylde of Biggleswade, accused of the murder of Nicholas Gullyng, complained...that he was imprisoned in Bedford Gaol for three years 'where the other prisoners died for lack of food as would he have done if he had not escaped therefrom." (VCH pt.25 p.7)
1496: Birth of (Sir) William Harpur in Bedford
1536: Henry VIII dissolves Cauldwell Priory
1539: Henry VIII dissolves Newnham Priory
1566: Harpur's Bedford Charity(now known as the Harpur Trust) endowed by Sir William and Dame Alice Harpur by gifts of lands in Holborn(producing 12 per annum) and in Bedford(producing 28 per annum)
1588: William Boteler becomes Sheriff of Bedford
1605: Gamaliel Ratsey, the notorious highwayman hanged at Bedford
1610: John Speed's map of Bedford printed, the earliest surviving map of the town
1643: Bedford (a town in sympathy with the Parliamentarians during the Civil War) is "attacked and taken by Prince Rupert during October...and the castle, temporarily restored to its original purpose of defence, was fortified by the Royalists, whose occupation was very brief." (VCH pt.25 p.4)
1648: In this year Bedford Corporation appointed a new official in an attempt to make a discrimination between the deserving and the undeserving poor. He was called the 'Bedell of Beggars'. "His duties were to arrest and convey to the constable all such persons being no inhabitants of the town as he shall find begging. He was to whip all persons sentenced to such punishment, and was to wear a coat with the town badge. His salary was to be derived from a poll tax of 2d on the town in the ordinary monthly relief of the poor." (VCH pt.25 p.3)
1671-1688: John Bunyan the minister of the Independent Church (now known as the Bunyan Meeting)
1672: A freak storm hits the town, houses and gates are blown down and a tree was 'carried over Paul's steeple as if it had been a bundle of feathers'
1680: John Wright, a shoemaker , accused of bewitching Dinah Wiffin, a bricklayer's wife who lived in the parish of St. Peter de Merton. Dinah was subject to fits of madness and had become obsessed with the memory of John Wright who she had once turned from her door. Her family accused him of bewitching her and he was brought before the Mayor of Bedford. John Wright appeared to be rather bemused by the whole thing and "Being demanded whether he was a witch (he) said he did not know but he trust to God he is not." Wright was sent to Bedford Gaol and to the Assizes. He stood on the charge that he bewitched Dinah Wiffin "so she pined and wasted away" but was acquitted
1688:Two "dreadful fires" destroy areas of the town on the 12th and 13th April
1738-39: A bad epidemic of smallpox in the town killing the vicar of St. Paul's amongst others
1753: John Wesley, the Methodist preacher, visits Bedford for the first time at the invitation of William Parker, a grocer. He wrote "I preached on St. Peter's Green at seven in the morning, and at five in the evening. It is amazing that any congregations be found here." He was to visit Bedford on a number of other occasions
1772: The Howard Congregational Chapel founded in Mill Street by John Howard.It was enlarged in 1849 and in 1862 a school room and various class rooms were erected to celebratethe Ministry of the Rev. William Alliott (Kelly's Directory, 1920)
1794: The Swan Hotel built for the Duke of Bedford by the architect Henry Holland replacing an earlier inn which stood closer to the High Street.
1794: The parish register of St. Mary's Church, records the burial of John Hallett, at one time midshipman of HMS Bounty then under command of William Bligh. When the famous mutiny occurred Hallett was asleep when he should have been on watch, a gross dereliction of duty. Hallett was however loyal to Bligh and was one of the crewmen who made the 4,000 mile sea voyage to the Dutch East Indies. At Bligh's court martial Hallett gave evidence against the mutineers and in 1790 formed part of the crew of HMS Pandora under Captain Edward Edwards who was given orders to capture the mutineers.
Page last updated: 22nd January 2014