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[Transcribed and edited information from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868]

"ELSTOW, a parish in the hundred of Redbornestoke, county Bedford, 1 mile south of Bedford, its post town and railway station. It is situated on a tributary of the river Ouse, and the Luton road passes through the village. An abbey or nunnery was founded here by Judith, niece of William I., of which there are still some traces. At the Dissolution its revenue amounted to £325 2s. 1d. The soil is a mixture of clay and gravel. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Ely, value £75. The church, originally the conventual church of the abbey, is an ancient structure in the Norman style of architecture, with lofty tower and steeple. It is dedicated to St. Helen, and contains several ancient monuments, tablets, and brasses. The parochial charities produce nearly £50 per annum. The Independents have a chapel. This was the birthplace of John Bunyan, author of "The Pilgrim's Progress." His cottage and forge is still shown. Elstow House is the principal residence. W. H. Whitbread, Esq., is lord of the manor."

[Transcribed from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland 1868]
by Colin Hinson ©2013




Church History

  • Church of England
    • The church of SS. Mary and Helena anciently attached to the Benedictine abbey, is chiefly a building of the Norman period, with some portions of early English date, and consists of a chancel, or choir, with clerestory, lofty clerestoried nave, aisles, north porch, a vaulted chamber on the north-west and a noble detached tower on the north-west with low spire, containing a clock and 5 bells: there are several ancient monuments and two marble mural tablets to the two co-heiresses of the late William Hillersdon esq. the former owner of the manor, whose ancestors possessed it for many generations: there are brasses to Elizabeth Hervey, an abbess, and to one of the nuns : the beautiful Early English vaulted room, called the Chapter house, now used as a vestry, has a slender column of Purbeck marble in the centre : the north porch is an interesting example of Norman work : the font and ceiling are Perpendicular : in 1882 the church was thoroughly restored at the expense of Samuel Whitbread esq. under the direction of T. J. Jackson, of Bedford, the cost being upwards of £6,000 : two stained windows have been placed at the east end of the south aisle to the memory of Bunyan and there are three others, one of which was erected in commemoration of the Queen's Jubilee. The register dates from the year 1640. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
  • Non-conformist
    • The Moot Hall is used as a Congregational meeting house. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898] The Elstow Moot Hall Museum is open 1-4 pm from April to the end of September on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays. They can also arrange to open at other times for group bookings. Telephone number; (UK) 01234 266889. Contact Address; Church End Elstow Bedfordshire MK42 9XT Location is on Elstow village green

Church Records


Description and Travel

  • Pillow lace making is carried on to a small extent. There are two large fairs for cattle held here annually on May 15th and November 5th. On the village green are remains of a stone cross. A short distance south of the church ace the remains of the Benedictine nunnery of St. Helen, founded by Judith, Countess of Huntingdon, and niece of William the Conqueror, in 1078 ; at its dissolution there were 21 nuns, and the revenues were estimated at £284. The renowned John Bunyan, author of " The Pilgrim's Progress," was born in this village in 1628 ; the son of a tinker, he was received into the ministry of the Baptists, and for preaching imprisoned in Bedford gaol 1660-72, afterwards was pastor of a chapel in Bedford ; he died in London in 1688, and was buried in Bunhill Fields burial ground. The ancient mansion known as Medbury Farm, one mile south-east, has been removed and the stone used for building purposes. Samuel Whitbread esq. D.L., J.P. of Southill, Biggleswade, is lord of the manor and principal landowner. The soil is gravelly near the town of Bedford, but towards the south of the parish deep loam and clay ; subsoil, clay. The chief crops are wheat and barley. The area is 1,612 acres of land and 5 of water ; rateable value, £7,924 ; the population in 1891 was 478. [Kelly's Directory - Bedfordshire - 1898]
  • Genweb Bedfordshire contains a descriptive page about Elstow



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Military History