Elstow is a small village just south of Bedford, with strong connections to John Bunyan. This nonconformist preacher and author of The Pilgrim's Progress was born in Elstow in 1628. The humble cottage where he was born is located 1 mile east of High Street, at a place called Bunyan’s End, near the hamlet of Harrowden.

Timber Framed Cottaged on the High Street
Timber Framed Cottages on the High Street © TAB

A number of old buildings in the village, including a row of fine timber frame and stone cottages along the main street, signify its affiliations with the 13th, 14th and 16th century. Several of these cottages once contained one-room shops and in Medieval times the village held a chartered market, (granted by Henry I in the 11th-c), indicated by the stump of a Medieval Market Cross on the green near the Abbey Church. The only retail outlet in the village today however is a small post office. For further details visit the Elstow Village Website.

St Helena and St Mary Church
St Helena and St Mary © TAB

The Abbey Church of St Helena and St Mary contains the font where Bunyan was baptised. Its unusual detached tower contains a 16th-c monument with effigies and a brasses. To the south-west of the church stands the ruins of Hillersden Mansion, the walls of which were formerly part of the Abbey’s cloisters. Built with other materials from the old Abbey in 1625, it was partly demolished in the late 18th-c. Several features, including a carved stone, two storey porch and several mullion windows are still visible.  For further details visit the Abbey Church Website.

Elstow Moot Hall
Elstow Moot Hall © TAB

The splendid mid 15th-c red bricked and half-timbered market house, called a Moot Hall (or meeting house), still stands on the village green. The hall was built to serve several purposes, including a courthouse (upstairs) and meeting room; six shops (downstairs) and a two storey lodging house. During the 19th and early 20th century it serve as a chapel and Sunday School for Bunyan’s followers. It also held a National and a night school. The hall currently houses a small museum dedicated to the life and times of Bunyan. Further details of the Moot Hall can be found on its Website.

The hall has connections with the famous May Fair at Elstow, organised by nuns from the local Abbey. It is believed that Bunyan had these celebrations in mind when he described the worldly 'Vanity Fair' in The Pilgrim's Progress. Traditional May Day celebrations are still held in the village to this day.

Map of Elstow

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