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Home > Community and living > Archives and records service > Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service


We are the County Record Office for Bedfordshire, based in Riverside Building|, Borough Hall, Bedford, where visitors are welcome to come in and use the archives for research.

We ask that you book an appointment before visiting. Please contact us by telephone (01234 228833) or by email (|) saying when you would like to visit and an idea of what material you would like to see.  We hope to be able to accommodate your visit but may have to advise you that we may be better able to meet your needs on another day.  Whilst we don't usually request ID from our visitors, please be aware that ID may be required to consult certain records due to Data Protection laws.

Our opening hours are  9.15 - 7 Monday and 9 - 5 Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday (We are closed on all Bank Holidays). Staff are on hand to help and advise you.

If you want to prepare for your visit you can search over 80% of our catalogues| online. If you are unable to visit us in person we offer an enquiry & research service|.


Please check our events page for an upcoming talk and Heritage Open Day!


Please check our Events| page for details of new talks and exhibitions!


Centenary of World War One

To commemorate the centenary of the First World War, Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service will be telling the story of the people of Bedfordshire during the First World War through two online blogs.

Bedfordshire At War: From the Frontline| will focus on the war itself, with daily reports from the Front in the style of a modern war correspondent.  It will include a daily roll of honour naming all the officers and men of the Bedfordshire Regiment and Bedfordshire Yeomanry listed as killed on that date.

Bedfordshire At War: The Homefront| will look at individuals and events across the county of Bedfordshire, with newspaper style reports illustrated where possible by contemporary photographs.

Both blogs can be followed on Twitter: @BedsAtWar|

If you are organising a First World War Commemoration event and would like it included in our calendar of events Centenary of the First World War| please contact us by email|

 Opening the Archives to Bedfordshire Schools

Heritage Lottery Fund Logo 

Bedfordshire and Luton Archives and Records Service has been granted £82,400 by The Heritage Lottery Fund by employ a Learning Officer for three years to work with Bedfordshire schools. The officer will work in Luton for the academic year 2013-14, in Bedford Borough in 2014-15 and in Central Bedfordshire in 2015-16. The Learning Officer will work with primary and secondary schools of all types – LEA controlled, academies, free schools and private schools. If you would like more information about this exciting project please contact us|.


Follow us on Twitter!

We can now be followed on!/BedsArchives|  for regular updates of new catalogues, web pages and events. 


Levi Welch [QGV10-4-150]

Records of Bedford Gaol

This chap is one of the most notorious criminals detained in Bedford Gaol| in the 19th century, Levi Welch |from Luton. Only a fraction of the prisoners had their photo taken - those deemed  habitual or frequent offenders -  but 41,500 descriptive records of the prisoners in Bedford gaol in the 19th Century are available on our online database|Please note that recent versions of Internet Explorer will not work with the database and searches will return no results. If this happens please use an alternative browser.


Paths to Crime

The exciting  Paths to Crime| two year project to catalogue the Bedfordshire Quarter Sessions Rolls from 1831-1900 is now complete. To celebrate the completion of the project we have launched two Paths to Crime Walks| where you can follow a trail through history in Harrold, Odell and Sharnbrook.



Objectives of the Archive Service: 

  • To collect and preserve, as part of a national network of archive repositories, in secure and environmentally controlled conditions, a comprehensive and evolving archive illustrating all aspects of Bedfordshire life and history including contemporary records of archival value.

  • To encourage public and community access to the records by processing archives and producing a range of finding aids, both in hard copy and on the world wide web; providing a public Searchroom service; offering a ‘one stop shop’ service point for all  enquiries about the County’s land, people and their
    activities as the sole repository for Bedfordshire’s written heritage

  • To promote use of the archives for business (legal and administrative), educational, cultural and recreational purposes

What are the ‘archives’ and ‘records’ we hold and who uses them?

 ‘Archives’ are written documents which were once working ‘records’ and have come to be preserved, often after selection (‘appraisal’ as we call it), for research and/or historical purposes. They represent the recorded memory of the organisation or individual which created them but also have a wider significance in terms of the information they contain for researchers.

The Archives held by the Service span over 800 years  and come from official and private sources. They include public records, local government archives and other official papers, church records, and archives from local families, businesses, societies and individuals. We also have extensive collections of maps, pictures and newspapers. To find out more about the variety of records held here browse our Guides to Collections| , Newsletter Articles| and Summary List of our Archive Holdings.|

The Archives are available to all. Anyone who wants to see them or obtain information may visit us. Researchers can use the material directly  as visitors on-site to the searchroom| (‘the research room‘) where you can see, handle and use the original records and where trained staff will help you to find what you want and give advice on your research. People who are unable to visit can make contact |by telephone, letter, fax and e-mail and use our enquiry and research service| . Increasingly, people are able to consult our archive catalogues |on the internet. Many others benefit indirectly from the products of direct research by the use of text and images in publications, marketing and advertising, media research and reporting.

Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service actively encourages access to the records in its care. However, sometimes records are embargoed (closed) – or may not otherwise be available - for example they may contain confidential or sensitive information, and access is restricted under the Data Protection rules.

There is no admission charge for visitors, and you do not have to pay to see the archives and records we hold. You will have to pay for any copying|, and for research work |which is carried out for you by staff. See our Scale of Charges| for full details.

We are committed to exploiting the potential of information technology and the internet, particularly in eventually placing all our archive catalogues on-line| so they can be consulted and index searched by the widest possible range of users. It is hoped that all our catalogues will be on line by 2015. We also have a popular online database of 19th Century prisoners| in Bedford gaol.

We have been working to bring the history of Bedfordshire's towns, villages & hamlets online in our Community Archives| section.

A records management service| was established in 1989 to serve the internal record keeping needs of Bedfordshire County Council, and since April 2009 has served the three unitary councils. The service has become a national leader in detailed appraisal, listing and indexing of Council archives; these are a vital 20th Century source for areas such as education, social conditions, house histories, and local history through the planning process and the Fire Service. Records with such historical value are transferred to the archives for permanent preservation.

Since 1st April 2009 the Archive Service has been jointly funded by the three councils: Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire and Luton Borough.

Archive Service Annual Report

View our 2014 - 2015 Annual Report here|