Dignitaries donned their finest robes and hats to celebrate 850 years of Bedford’s Royal Charter at a civic service held on Sunday.
Mayor Dave Hodgson hosted the event at St Paul’s Church in the town centre, to mark the sealing of the charter by King Henry II in 1166.
The historic deal gave special rights and freedoms to the people of Bedford including the right to set up courts of law, freedom from manorial dues and other tolls and the right to hold a market.
The Bedford Charter is one of the oldest in the country and the original document, signed by the King in Rouen, France, during a military campaign, is in the Bedfordshire Record Office at Borough Hall.
A framed copy is on the Mayor’s Parlour wall. There is also a copy on the wall of a painting, by K Petts, of the burgesses collecting the charter from the King.
Mayor Hodgson said: “Bedford Borough can date much of its history back to King Henry II’s historic sealing of the Royal Charter. It gave powers and freedoms to the people of Bedford that went on to help shape the borough that we know today. Perhaps most notably this included the right to hold a market, a tradition that is strongly supported to this day.”
Earlier this month a tree was planted to mark the anniversary. More celebratory events will be announced by the Borough Council throughout the year.