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Elstow is a village and civil parish in the Englishmarker county of Bedfordshire. John Bunyan, was born in the hamlet of Harrowdenmarker which, although not in the parish of Elstow, stands just a mile east of the actual village.

History

Countess Judith, niece of William the Conqueror founded a nunnery in Elstow in the year 1078. The Elstow nuns came from wealthy families and each came with an endowment of money and/or lands. So, by 1538 Elstow Abbeymarker was valued as being the eighth richest Benedictine nunnery in England. On 26 August 1539, the Abbess was forced to surrender the Abbey, the manor of Elstow and all the Abbey's other lands and estates throughout England, to King Henry VIII, as part of his Dissolution of the Monasteries. So significant was the Abbey at Elstow that, even after the dissollution, the building was being considered for elevation to cathedral status, but this never transpired.

The Saunderson Tractor and Implement Co. was founded in Elstow in 1890: it was one of the biggest tractor makers by the time of the First World War. From an undisclosed date the firm continued as the Bedford Plough and Engineering Co.

Further reading



Elstow today

The village and most of the populated part of Elstow parish are located inside Bedfordmarker's southern bypass, with the hamlet of Harrowden lying just to the south-east of that road.A large part of the population of the parish nowadays is not located in the old Elstow village itself, but in a large housing development called Abbeyfields, which was built in first few years of the 21st century and is effectively a suburb of Bedfordmarker.The old village is now virtually surrounded by modern development and, as a conservation area, is a little oasis of calm, with some beautiful, well-preserved, medieval buildings and tranquil village green.Elstow village green is an ideal place for a summer picnic, perhaps combined with a visit to the historic Moot Hall and the 11th century Abbey church.

Elstow Moot Hall

Elstow Moot Hall (or The Green House, as it was formerly known) stands in isolation on Elstow village green. It was built in the 15th century partly to serveas a market-house, with four shops on the ground floor. The building was extended, probably in the late 15th century, adding two more shop bays and two rooms suitable for living in - these were probably used to accommodate important visitors to the nearby Abbey.For many years, it was thought that the downstairs shop bays were used between annual village fairs for storing the stalls and other equipment in connection with those fairs. However, recent investigations have indicated that these six downstairs shop bays were probably used as permanant shops throughout the whole year.The main upper room of this Tudor timber-framed building was probably originally used as the Abbess' court. It was certainly used after the dissolution as a manor court - where people who had committed local misdemeanors and petty crimes would be dealt with. Disputes arising from the fairs would also be heard and settled here. It was probably also used through most of its history as a village meeting place - hence the present name - Moot (meaning 'meeting') Hall.Throughout much of the 19th century, the upper room was used every Sunday both as a school and, in the evening, by the Elstow congregation of the Bunyan Meeting Church, as a place of worship.Moot Hall was restored to its original medieval form by Bedfordshire County Council in 1950. It is now cared for by Bedford Borough Council, which operates it as a museum illustrating 17th century English life, with exhibitions of antique furniture and information relating to John Bunyan.

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