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Hometown Tourist: Guided Walks of Bedford

19/12/2011
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Bedford's Bunyan (photo courtesy of Shaun Armstrong http://www.shaunarmstrong.com)

Take time to look at our town with fresh eyes.  By being a tourist in your own town you’ll be amazed at what is right on your doorstep…

With a wealth of knowledge and experience, what the Bedford Tour Guides don’t know about our town isn’t worth knowing!  Established by the Borough Council over 20 years ago, the Tour Guides are your key to the hidden history of Bedford.  They run twice weekly tours on a plethora of subjects (see the Listings Guide for further information) and have a passion for sharing their stories.  The Clanger met with Trevor Stewart to find out some of the secrets of the town centre.

“Our most popular walk is called ‘I Never Knew That’ and Bedfordians who join us for this tour are always amazed at how much history of the town is unknown to them,” explains Trevor.  “I won’t give away the secret, but there is something unusual about the statue of John Howard that never fails to astound people!” (I can vouch for that! – Ed)

“When we start a walking tour of the town, we always advise people to look up above the shop-fronts.  In almost all cases, that’s where all the interesting details can be found,” says Trevor.  “For example, the clock on St Paul’s church was known as God’s clock in years gone by as it could be seen for miles around.  It was effectively the town’s timepiece in the days before watches.  Or the bull-shaped clock that stands out from the shopfronts on the High Street.  This was the original site of John Bull jewellers and the clock was the symbol of their store.  At 11am each day a ball would drop on the reverse side of the clockface to signify GMT.”

Fascinatingly, the years during the Second World War saw many departments of the BBC relocate to Bedford to avoid the bombings in London.  During the Blitz it was deemed too dangerous for the BBC’s Music Department to remain in London, and they were originally ‘evacuated’ to Bristol.  Unfortunately, as they arrived in the West Country, Bristol came under heavy bombing too.  The Mayor of Bedford heard of their plight and offered the musicians a home in our town.  A hired train left Bristol with the entirety of the BBC’s musicians, band-leaders and technical crews and they established themselves in various buildings around the town including The Corn Exchange.  Other departments then followed including drama and news.

“It is no exaggeration to say that Bedford kept the BBC broadcasting during the war years,” explains Trevor. “We are running our popular WWII walk on Sunday 3rd July and again on Wednesday 14th August so please book a space if you’d like to find out more.”

If you would like to find out more or to book a place on any of the Guided Walks, please contact the Tourist Information Centre

tel: 01234 221712 or email: touristinfo@bedford.gov.uk

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