ELSTOW AND THE BUNYANS OF ELSTOW.
IF, as is not improbable, any considerable portion of the two thousand petitioners from Bedfordshire started from the county town, Bunyan, who was then a lad of twelve, may have stood and with wistful eyes watched this significant cavalcade as it passed through his native village, along the main street of which then lay the high road to London.
Elstow, a little more than a mile to the south-west of Bedford, is a quaint, quietly nestling place, with an old-world look upon it, scarcely touched by the movements of our modern life. Fronting the road-side, with overhanging storeys and gabled dormers, are half-timbered cottages, some of which, judging from the oaken rafters and staircases of their interiors, have seen better days. The long building in the centre of the village, and now turned into cottages, with projecting upper chambers and central overhanging gateway, still retains much of the external appearance it presented as a hostelry for pilgrims in pre- Reformation times.* Opposite to the gate of this hostelry is the opening to the village green, on the north side of which stands what we may call the Moot Hall of the parish, a picturesque building of timber and brick, which, with its oaken beams bearing traces of Perpendicular carving and its ruddy tiles touched here and there with many-tinted lichen, presents to the eye in the summer sun-light a pleasant combination of colour and form. This curious structure of fifteenth century work, furnishing a somewhat fine example of the domestic architecture of the period, was probably originally erected to serve as the hospitium for travellers, and while not far from the road was yet within the ballium or outer court of Elstow Abbey.1 At a later time, when the manorial rights passed from the Abbess to the Crown, there were held in the upper chamber those courts
* It has been suggested that this was The Ball Inn mentioned in Dr. Brown's Preface In this volume.