John Bunyan's Bedford


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John Bunyan's Bedford

  1. 1. John Bunyan’s Bedford
  2. 2. The Pilgrim’s Progress Probably the most widely read book ever written in English, composed while Bunyan was imprisoned in Bedford Gaol for non-conformism
  3. 3. The Pilgrim’s Progress The Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into more than 200 languages, mostly by missionaries --more than any other book except the Bible
  4. 4. The Pilgrim’s Progress The John Bunyan Museum in Bedford has more than 170 translations of The Pilgrim’s Progress in its library, including African, Asian and Oceanic languages
  5. 5. The Pilgrim’s Progress When The Pilgrim’s Progress was published in 1678, it became an immediate success in England and New England, with even the King speaking of John Bunyan
  6. 6. The Pilgrim’s Progress Unusual in modern English literature, since it speaks in the voice of the common people, its author obviously not rich, not powerful and not well educated
  7. 7. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyan lived in turbulent times, born the year before Charles I became king and died two months before the Glorious Revolution, with James II in exile
  8. 8. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyans had lived in Bedfordshire since at least the 12th century, but it was a family in decline, with each generation selling more and more land in Elstow, just south of Bedford
  9. 9. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyan’s father had inherited a cottage and nine acres of land in Elstow, an illiterate and not terribly religious man who walked around Bedfordshire working as a tinker
  10. 10. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Although most poor children were not educated at this time, Bunyan was taught to read and write, possibly at the Harpur Trust School, established in 1566
  11. 11. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford At the age of 16, Bunyan joined the New Model Army, stationed at Newport Pagnell for three years, though too late to take part in any battles of the English Civil War
  12. 12. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford After the army, Bunyan walked around Bedfordshire working as a tinker, just as his father had done And, like his father, Bunyan was not terribly religious, later portraying himself as the chief of sinners
  13. 13. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Walking down the road between Bedford and Elstow one day, Bunyan overheard some women talking about the happiness they had found since salvation and Bunyan decided he wanted some of that happiness, too
  14. 14. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford In 1653, a non- conformist sect had taken over St John’s Church, just south of Bedford Bridge on the road to Elstow, with John Gifford as its chosen leader, now living in the rectory beside the church
  15. 15. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Before joining this sect himself, Gifford had been a major in the Royalist Army and a well-known wag Bunyan began to visit Gifford to discuss the Bible, with the rectory the model for the Interpreter’s House
  16. 16. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyan moved his family to St Cuthbert’s Street in Bedford in 1655 to be closer to the sect and, the following year, Bunyan began to preach, almost always on the theme of the lost lamb who now was found
  17. 17. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford With the Restoration in 1660, the Church of England became the official church once again -- with Sunday attendance required by law -- and non-conformist meetings were banned
  18. 18. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford St John’s Church and its rectory were taken away from Bunyan’s sect and returned to the Church of England Bunyan refused to attend church and continued to meet and preach
  19. 19. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyan was arrested and held for twelve years, an unusually long term for non- conformism But almost definitely not in the old town gaol on Bedford Bridge
  20. 20. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyan spent a third of his adult life in the county gaol on the corner of High Street and Silver Street, with six cells and two dungeons, holding half a dozen prisoners each
  21. 21. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyan’s young second wife and his four children from his first marriage lived only five minutes away, his blind, eldest daughter, Mary, bringing him soup and ale every day
  22. 22. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyan was also occasionally allowed to leave gaol, meeting regularly with his sect, preaching as far away as London and even fathering two children by his second wife
  23. 23. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford When he was not making shoestrings to help support his struggling family, Bunyan wrote, probably beginning The Pilgrim’s Progress during this first imprisonment
  24. 24. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford Bunyan was released in 1672, following the so-called Quaker Pardon, which allowed non- conformist meetings, now chosen as leader of his sect in Bedford
  25. 25. Bunyan’s Life in Bedford However, Bunyan was imprisoned again for almost a year in 1677, for not attending church, when he probably finished The Pilgrim’s Progress, publishing it in London in 1678
  26. 26. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Like much of the East Midlands, Bedfordshire had a reputation in the 17th century for being anti-Royalist and pro-Puritan, with no doubt which side it would support in the war
  27. 27. Bedford’s Non-Conformists When Charles II was back on the throne and eleven men were executed for beheading Charles I in 1649, two of those eleven men were, not surprisingly, from Bedfordshire
  28. 28. Bedford’s Non-Conformists In the mid-17th century, Bedford had a population of about 2000, with Bunyan’s cottage on St Cuthbert’s Street actually on the edge of town, not in the centre as it is today
  29. 29. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Roughly before 1640 and after 1660, all Englishmen and Englishwomen were members of the Church of England, whether they wanted to be members or not
  30. 30. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Failure to attend church was a crime and all church members were required to donate 10% of their income to their parish priest, in whose selection they had no say
  31. 31. Bedford’s Non-Conformists In opposition to this, non-conformist sects began to gather in Bedfordshire, reading and discussing the Geneva Bible and choosing their own leaders
  32. 32. Bedford’s Non-Conformists These sects began to grow and gain confidence in the 1640s and, by the early 1650s, one sect became so open that the town council invited it to take over St John’s Church
  33. 33. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Other sects also became more open, including the Quakers, who held the first national meetings of Quakers from all over England in Bedfordshire in 1657 and 1658
  34. 34. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Following the Restoration and Bunyan’s arrest, these sects became secretive once again, with Bunyan’s sect meeting illegally in members’ private homes
  35. 35. Bedford’s Non-Conformists In 1670, one of these meetings was raided and 29 non-conformists were arrested, but the local community quickly came to the sect’s rescue and almost resulted in a riot
  36. 36. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Of the 29 arrested, only 12 were members of the sect, the others simply “friends”, suggesting that this sect was really much larger than its 40-some members
  37. 37. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Following the Quaker Pardon in 1672, non-conformist sects were allowed to meet, as long as they applied for a licence to worship Ironically, only the Quakers refused to do so
  38. 38. Bedford’s Non-Conformists In Bedfordshire, 37 different sects applied for these licences to worship -- more, in proportion to the population of the county, than anywhere else in the country
  39. 39. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Between 1660 and 1690, non- conformists were recorded in 113 of the 131 parishes in Bedfordshire, roughly 8% of the population, or twice the national average
  40. 40. Bedford’s Non-Conformists Although non- conformists were allowed to meet following the Quaker Pardon in 1672, they were still not allowed to attend university or to hold public office
  41. 41. Bedford’s Non-Conformists By the mid-19th century, attendance at non- conformist meetings in Bedford was almost double the attendance at Church of England services
  42. 42. John Bunyan’s Bedford? So, just how much influence did John Bunyan have on Bedford and its sense of itself? How much did he help Bedford become what it eventually became?
  43. 43. John Bunyan’s Bedford? Definitely some, as the chosen leader of Bedford’s most popular non- conformist sect and, later, as a preacher and writer with a national and even international reputation
  44. 44. Or Bedford’s Bunyan? And just how much influence did Bedford have on John Bunyan and his sense of himself? How much did Bedford help him become what he eventually became?
  45. 45. Or Bedford’s Bunyan? Probably quite a lot, since it had a national reputation as a centre of non- conformism decades before anyone outside Elstow had ever heard of a tinker called John Bunyan