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Earliest Times - 1800

Places > Bedford

King Offa796: 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