John Bunyan - His Life in Elstow
Bunyan was born in a cottage at the far end of Elstow parish, close to the hamlet of Harrowden, in 1628. The cottage no longer stands, but its site is marked by a stone, erected in 1951, Festival of Britain year. Prior to John’s birth, the Bunyan family had lived in the area for over 400 years.
The Abbey Church of St Helena and St Mary, restored in 1880, is the truncated remnant of a once larger monastic church of the 13th century. Overlooking Elstow Green and Moot Hall, the church has two stain-glassed windows, one depicting scenes from The Pilgrim's Progress and the other from The Holy War. It contains the Communion Table used when Bunyan attended the church, and the font where he was christened on 30 November 1628. The door and wicket gate which figure in The Pilgrim's Progress, formerly at the church’s northern entrance, can also be seen. Bunyan’s mother, father and sister are buried in the graveyard.
The stump of a cross, damaged during the Reformation, marks the site on Elstow Green where the Annual May Fair used to be held. It was also on the green that Bunyan danced and joined in games of tip-cat; a form of rounders played with a stick rather than a ball.
Elstow Moot Hall (or Green House as it was formerly known) was built in the late 15th century as a market-house in connection with the village fairs. It was used for storing the stalls and other equipment and as a place for hearing disputes arising from the fairs. In the 19th century the upper room was used both as a school and a place of worship. Restored by Bedfordshire County Council, Moot Hall is now a museum illustrating 17th century English life and tradition.
It is open April-September. There is a nominal admission charge. For further details or party bookings please contact (01234) 266889.
A row of Tudor cottages has been restored to look as it did in Bunyan’s time. The cottages were restored by Bedfordshire County Council
Information © Bedford Borough Council