FIVE YEARS OF BEDFORD LIFE: 1655--1660.
IT has been already mentioned that Bunyan was formerly received to the Church at Bedford, in 1653, at which time he was still living on at Elstow. In his account of himself he is provokingly reticent in the matter of dates, but it was probably in 1651 or 1652, that he began to come into Bedford to listen to the preaching of John Gifford. His doing so created an unusual stir among his neighbours, and brought unexpected fame to the preacher. That a "town-sinner" so notorious should become so changed, brought over the people of Elstow to hear for themselves. "When I went out," says he, "to seek the Bread of Life, some of them would follow me and the rest be put into a muse at home. Yea, almost all the town at first at times would go out to hear at the place where I found good. Yea, young and old for a while had some reformation on them; also, some of them perceiving that God had mercy on me, came crying to Him for mercy too." So that Gifford soon found that this was no ordinary convert who had come under his influence.
As we know from the parish register, Bunyan continued to live at Elstow for about two years after his reception into the Bedford Church. Mary, his blind child, and Elizabeth, his second daughter, were both born there, as these entries in the register show:
"Mary, the daughter of John Bonion, was baptized the 20th day of July, 1650."
"Elizabeth, the daughter of John Bonyon, was born 14th day of April, 1654."
The birthplace of these two children was the little roadside dwelling in the village of Elstow, still pointed out as Bunyan's cottage. Within living memory it was a thatched building with a lean-to forge at the south end, but there is now little of the original structure left beyond the walls and the oak beam of the interior.