850 Years On
Bedford Celebrates Royal Charter
Bedford is gearing up for a special
anniversary next year marking 850 years since King Henry II signed
the Royal Charter granting new rights and powers to local
One of the lasting legacies of Henry II’s
reign was the creation of about 150 chartered boroughs throughout
the country. The Charter provided certain liberties and
independence for Bedford in exchange for annual taxes.
Bedford’s Charter is believed to be the second
oldest and as part of the celebrations it is hoped a range of
exhibitions and events will give people a flavour of life back in
1166 and the 850 years following.
Highlights already announced include an 850
trail at The Higgins Bedford, a twelfth century village at Bedford
River Festival and a special play ‘Somewhere in England’ (The
Bedford Play) about the history of Bedford commissioned by The
Harpur Trust. More details of events taking place will emerge
Groups and organisations are also invited to
get in on the anniversary spirit and can use a special
850th logo that has been introduced to celebrate the
year. The logo resembles a medieval stamp and can be downloaded
from the Council’s website.
A special anniversary calendar has also been
produced including images taken around Bedford Borough by local
photographers as part of the Bedford Clanger’s ‘Photo a Day’
competition. The Calendar also includes some of the events already
announced for next year and is available from the Higgins Bedford,
Number 13 Café, Bedford Borough libraries and the travel and
tourism centre at the Bus Station.
Mayor of Bedford Borough, Dave Hodgson said:
“Bedford has one of the oldest Royal Charters in the country, and I
hope people agree that this anniversary really is something to
celebrate. The charter is a proud feature of Bedford’s rich
history. It granted the people of Bedford special rights and powers
which helped to create and to shape the borough we know today.
850 years on from the signing, 2016 marks a
significant date in our history. A range of exciting events and
activities are being planned throughout the year to mark the 850
anniversary and I invite everyone to join the celebrations.
The Bedford Charter was given in 1166 while
King Henry II was in France. The original is in the Bedfordshire
Record Office at Borough Hall. There were a number of liberties
granted but they included the right to set up courts of law,
freedom from manorial dues and other tolls. There was an annual
rental paid direct to the King’s treasury (the first amount
mentioned for Bedford, which had a population of about 3000, was