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Bunyans Cottage Elstow

Bunyan's Cottage pictured in The Victoria County History of 1912
Bunyan's Cottage pictured in The Victoria County History of 1912

The Bedfordshire Historic Environment Record [HER] contains information on the county’s historic buildings and landscapes and summaries of each entry can now be found online as part of the Heritage Gateway website. The entry for Bunyan’s Cottage [HER 260] reads: “The site of a cottage believed to have been the home of John Bunyan for a short time following his marriage. The cottage was timber framed with plaster infilling, and later red brick at the rear. It had a tiled roof, and the ground floor level was below that of the road”.

“The connection with Bunyan was a local tradition, but it may have been an earlier cottage on the same site in which he lived. The cottage was demolished c.1969”. As Elstow’s, indeed, Bedfordshire’s. most famous son it would be surprising if folk memory had not designated a cottage as his. The cottage seems to have been demolished in order to create a drive leading to Saint Helena.

The site of Bunyan's Cottage February 2012
The site of Bunyan's Cottage February 2012

The Rating and Valuation Act 1925 specified that every building and piece of land in the country was to be assessed to determine its rateable value. Elstow, like much of the county, was assessed in 1927 and the valuer visiting the cottage [DV1/C33/122] found that it, like most of the parish, belonged to Lord of the Manor Samuel Howard Whitbread. The tenant was Miss E. Fox, who paid rent of £7/16/- per annum.

The cottage was a basic two up, two down - two living rooms, two bedrooms. A washhouse and a wood barn stood outside. The valuer duly noted: “John Bunyan’s Cottage” and “1 Room used as shop”. Despite this Miss Fox is not noted in any trade directories of the period as a shopkeeper though she is listed as living at Bunyan’s Cottage in the directories of 1928, 1931, 1936 and 1940 (directories were not published every year). The directories for 1920 and 1924 list the occupier as Miss Eliza Cherry.

.The plaque on the site of Bunyan's Cottage February 2012
The plaque on the site of Bunyan's Cottage February 2012