Bunyan Meeting Free Church
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The church was founded in 1650 by a group of twelve Dissenters although not founded by John Bunyan, his name is 27th on the roll of members; the church became associated with his name and became known as the Bunyan Meeting.
Shortly after his release from prison in 1672, John Bunyan became Minister and the congregation purchased an orchard in Mill Lane, now Mill Street at a cost of 50 and a barn in the orchard was licensed as a meetinghouse. It was in 1707, during the ministry of the Rev Ebenezer Chandler that the Old Meeting was built on the same site. The Victorian novelist, Mark Rutherford(William Hale White) was a member of the church during the ministry of the Rev John Jukes 1840-66.
In 1849 the Old Meeting was demolished and in 1850 the present building was opened on the same site at a cost of 4,500. The bronze doors with the ten scenes from The Pilgrims Progress were presented to the church in 1876 by Hastings Russell the 9th Duke of Bedford. The doors were the work of the sculpture Frederick Thrupp who made them for St. Martins Hall, Long Acre in 1868 and the doors were subsequently purchased by the Duke of Bedford for the Bunyan Meeting. A porch was added specially to protect the doors.
In the First World War the church premises housed the Bunyan canteen while during the Second World War the schoolrooms were taken over by the BBC and broadcasts were made from the studios there. From here was broadcast the special service of thanksgiving on the occasion of the surrender of Italy in 1943.
The church was renovated and refurbished in 1974-75 when all the old wooden pews were removed and the sanctuary modernised. Part of the early 16th century communion table was retained. There is a memorial stone to Bunyans granddaughter, Hannah, who died in 1770. Surrounding the church is the burial ground, which was first used during Bunyans ministry and continued until 1856 when Bedford cemetery was opened and all burial grounds within the town were closed. This area was converted into a Garden of Remembrance in 1928.
- Newspaper Cuttings Collection, Local Studies Library, Bedford Central Library.
- CIRKET, Alan. A Souvenir Guide to the John Bunyan Museum, Library and Bunyan Meeting Free Church. 1992.
- TIBBUTT, H.G. Tercentenary. In The Bedfordshire Magazine Vol.2 pp.148-50 1950
Bunyan Meeting Free Church by Bedfordshire Libraries, 2011
Page last updated: 21st January 2014