Bedford is the UK’s most racially diverse town, with more different races and cultures represented than anywhere else in the UK. Bedford has the largest Sikh Gurdwara in the UK outside London.
Bedford has a large Southern Asian population. Immigration from India, in particular the Punjab area, increased significantly in the late 1950s, with many taking jobs at The London Brick Company.
Italy too plays a major role in Bedford’s culture and history with the early 1950s seeing many Italians coming to the UK to find work, again as a result of The London Brick Company’s recruitment drive. By 1960, some 7,500 Italian men were employed by the LBC, many originally from regions of Southern Italy such as Campania and Puglia. Today, Bedford boasts a population of around 20,000 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation Italians. Consequently, Bedford is a great place to come for Italian food with traditional and authentic restaurants and Café’s dotted around Bedford in and around Bedford.
In fact, foodies can enjoy a whole range of different cuisines without venturing out of Bedford. The tempting array includes food from Bangladesh, China, France, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Poland, Thailand, and even Vietnam. Visit our Places to Eat page for more details.
Since 2001 there has also been a significant migration to Bedford from countries joining the European Union, namely: Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romani, Slovakia and Slovenia, increasing Bedford’s standing as proportionally the most ethnically and linguistically diverse town in the United Kingdom. Indeed there are close to 5,000 Bedford households where there is no adult speaking English as a main language.
Museums and Galleries
The Higgins Museum and Art Gallery
The Higgins comprises Bedford Museum and the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery. Both were re-opened under the new guise in June 2013 following major redevelopment.
The Higgins Bedford, Castle Lane, Bedford, Mk40 3XD
The Eagle Gallery
The gallery comprises work from both 2D and 3D artists, and the display changes on a four-weekly cycle. Each artist contributes only two pieces, so the display is always varied. Displays include pottery, ceramics, jewellery, sculpture, and of course paintings, plus many more.
101 Castle Road, Bedford, MK40 3QP
Bedford Creative Arts
Bedford Creative Arts is a contemporary arts charity. The programme aims to introduce new artists, and commissions include residencies, events, projects, and workshops that cater for a wide audience.
I-Create Studios, 104 Midland Road
The South Bank Arts Centre
The South Bank Art Centre at Bedford College, not only showcases work by students, but also inspiring and contemporary local artists and even staff. The gallery is free to the public and is open during college hours. There is also a Costa Coffee bar for you to take a break in. The centre’s programme of work covers more than just art, with display from graphic artists, painters, installation exhibitions and textile artists to name but a few.
Bedford College, Cauldwell Street, Bedford
Gallery Open Monday – Friday 9.00am – 6.00pm Admission: FREE
John Bunyan Museum
John Bunyan 1628 -1688
The John Bunyan Museum tells the story of Bedford’s most famous son. John Bunyan was a prolific author, particularly during his time in Bedford Gaol. He was also a pastor and preacher. Walk through the life and times of John Bunyan, and experience his tiny cramped prison cell.
Bunyan Meeting Church, Mill Street, Bedford MK40 3EU
The Panacea Museum
The Panacea Society was formed in the early 20th Century by Mabel Barltrop. Mabel Barltrop became known by her followers as Octavia, Divine Daughter. The museum shows how the Barltrop house at No. 12 Albany Road looked in the 1930s when the society was at its height. Central to the Panacea beliefs is a sealed box of prophecies made by Joanna Southcott.
The museum guides visitors through the history and beliefs of the Panacea Society. There is also a small Chapel where Panacea Society members worshipped until the 1990s and where the International Healing Ministry practiced. The beautiful gardens, also part of the museum are very important to the society, who believed they stood on the site of the Garden of Eden.
7 Newnham Road, Bedford MK40 3NX
images © The Panacea Society
The Glenn Miller Museum
Glen Miller left Bedford from the Twinwood air base on what would be his last flight. The Control Tower has been meticulously restored, and here you can find The Glen Miller Museum. Read more about Glen Miller
Twinwood Road, Bedford, MK41 6AB
Also known as the 306th Bombardment Group Museum, the museum catalogues the history of the Royal Aircraft Establishment in Bedford during The 2nd World War