Meet The Howes: A Family of Puritan Booksellers

As part of the 2021 IJBS Blog Series, Joe Saunders (@joe_saunders1), PhD candidate at the University of York, uncovers a new network of Puritan booksellers in seventeenth-century England. Joe’s research is part of a larger article to be published in the Society’s next issue of Bunyan Studies: A Journal of Reformation and Nonconformist Culture (forthcoming Autumn 2021).

In the spring of 1638, the Stationer William Howes died, leaving few tangible marks of his young life. He had been a member of the Company of Stationers, the London guild which theoretically controlled most of the printing and bookselling in England. However, he is one of many who barely surface in the records of the Company. Nor does he appear to have been involved in the publication of any surviving texts. Despite this absence, William left a last will and testament in which he bequeathed to his brother Thomas (fl. 1617-1638) three books; ‘Armeniasme Dixon on ye Hebrews Aynswer’, ‘the Comunion of Saintes’ and the ‘Lamentacons of Germany’.[1] William’s membership of the print trade meant he would have acquired them directly through his work or indirectly through his knowledge and contacts within the trade network. However, they were seemingly personal texts, intended for someone William believed would appreciate them as he had done.

Bequests of books are of interest in our effort to understand what was read in early modern England. As William was a participant of the print trade his bequest is of particular value. These were godly books and William was appreciating these texts at a time when godly print was blooming in England. When it came to flower during the following decades it did so with the assistance of members of his family who were Puritan booksellers during the 1640s and 1650s. A study of William’s books and wider family is an opportunity to learn about the Puritan print trade in a period when, according to Andrew Cambers, Puritan ‘booksellers were key figures in the fusion of religious zeal and printed polemic’.[2] It should be said that I am taking ‘Puritan’as an encompassing term referring to a broad type of literature, suggesting the wide practical appreciation of godly texts by readers not bound by the differences authors drew between themselves, or by historians subsequently.

The first book William bequeathed was ‘Armeniasme Dixon on ye Hebrews Aynswer’. This was certainly David Dickson’s A short explanation, of the epistle of Paul to the Hebrewes (1635–37), a significant and bulky theological book of around 500 pages by a leading Scottish Calvinist minister (see Figure 1). The text does not appear in the Stationers’ Registers of London, and one version was published in Aberdeen and another in Dublin ‘by the Society of Stationers’.

Figure 1. Frontispiece to David Dickson, A Short Explanation of the Epistle of Paul to the Hebrewes (Aberdeen, 1635).

The second text bequeathed was The Comunion of Saintes‘. This is more difficult to identify. It may have been Edward Maie’s, A sermon of the communion of saintes or Henry Ainsworth’s The communion of saincts. Maie’s work is a short tract, Ainsworth’s runs to hundreds of pages and both are weighty theological discussions. The only extant text of Maie’s work is from 1621 and so it does not fit the pattern set by William’s other books which were current at the time of his death. Ainsworth was a minister in a separatist church in Amsterdam and a prolific author. If this was his text then we should note that the earliest London edition was not published until 1641, after Howes’ death. Either this bequest shows a London edition prior to those previously known or it came from abroad. Before 1641 this text had borne an Amsterdam imprint including a 1640 edition probably from the ‘Richt Right Press’, an English Calvinist publishing operation which produced a number of bestsellers in the late 1630s and early 1640s (see Figure 2).[3]

Figure 2. Frontispiece to Henry Ainsworth, The Communion of Saincts (Amsterdam, 1640).

The last book William named was ‘Lamentacons of Germany’. This has only one likely correspondent text, that authored by Philip Vincent, for which we have an extant edition from 1638 (see Figure 3). It is a short book containing information on the state of the Thirty Years War (1618–1648) and a warning of the devastation it caused. His possession of it shows William as a keen observer of providentialism, a characteristically Calvinist concern for destruction and ruin, and reveals that William was interested in the condition of the Calvinist project internationally.[4]

Figure 3. Frontispiece to Philip Vincent, The Lamentation of Germany (London: 1638).

Despite a will proclaiming himself a Stationer, the lack of a record of William’s own work means comparisons cannot be drawn between the books he read for pleasure and those he plied for his trade. We can, however, find evidence of other Howes Stationers as a Puritan bookselling family. In doing so we can see the influences of Puritanism within a print trade family. Peter McCullough has shown individuals situated within a complex web of economics, locality and kinship all acting as ‘matrices’ in the publication process.[5] The Howes family matrix would have influenced the print trade decisions they made collectively and individually. Their case illuminates the nature of the family as crucial to the formation and dissemination of the Puritan print trade in seventeenth-century England.

William’s will was witnessed by his brother Robert (fl. 1610–1648), who was also a Stationer and had been William’s Master. For much of his life William would have lived and worked in his brother’s household learning the trade of bookselling (see Figure 4). Puritanism centred on the godly household so the spiritual influences of Robert on William (and vice-versa) would have been significant. To Robert can be attributed three extant texts, indicating a godliness like that of his brother. This includes publishing a newsbook favourable to the Parliamentary cause with the Puritan printer Henry Overton, (and likely brother of the Leveller, Richard Overton); the Weekly intelligence from severall parts of this kingdome for which we have two issues from October 1642.

Figure 4. Men working at a printing press, proofing copy, inking, and setting type. Engraving after a woodcut by Stradanus, c.1580. Wellcome Collection.

Robert’s son Samuel (fl. 1643–1653) was also a Stationer, becoming Henry Overton’s apprentice. In 1649 he was listed as a sectarian bookseller and was said to have been an Antinomian bookbinder. He was involved in the publication of several Puritan texts. His place of business was named as ‘Pope’s Head Alley’, within the parish of St Stephen’s, Coleman Street, notable for the religious Independency and political radicalism of its inhabitants. There also is a possibility that Robert was father to Hannah (fl. 1632–1664) who married first the Stationer Benjamin Allen and then Livewell Chapman. She was similarly based in Pope’s Head Alley. Maureen Bell has shown how Hannah’s Puritan radicalism was significant as was her role in publishing, especially in support of the Fifth Monarchist cause.[6] Hannah’s publishing network and those of the books bequeathed by her uncle William shows several mutually held relationships within the trade.

Taken together, the texts William collected and the careers of his brother, niece and nephew suggest the interconnectedness of a London based Puritan family of booksellers and their involvement within an international print trade of godly texts. This highlights the intergenerational influences of Puritanism, passed down between kith and kin, and how such influences served both spiritual and practical ends.


[1] London, The National Archives, PROB 11/177/403 [Will of William Howes, 02 July 1638].

[2] Andrew Cambers, Godly Reading: Print, Manuscript and Puritanism in England, 1580-1720 (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2012), p. 203.

[3] See David D. Hall, The Puritans: A Transatlantic History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2019), pp.197–98.

[4] See Alexandra Walsham, Providence in Early Modern England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp 15–20.

[5] Peter McCullough, ‘Print, Publication, and Religious Politics in Caroline England’, The Historical Journal, 51 (2008), 285–313 (286).

[6] Maureen Bell, ‘Hannah Allen and the Development of a Puritan Publishing Business, 1646–51’, Publishing History, 26 (1989), 5–66.

Glorious Sounds: Exploring the Soundscapes of British Nonconformity: 1550-1800

Virtual Conference, 14-15th April 2021

The International John Bunyan Society welcomes you to the Glorious Sounds: Exploring the Soundscapes of British Nonconformity: 1550-1800 – a virtual conference hosted by Northumbria University, Newcastle and organised in association with the University of Bedfordshire, Keele University, Loughborough University and the University of Warwick.

This major two day multi-disciplinary conference seeks to explore the various ways that sound impacted the lives and writings of early modern Nonconformists and, in turn, their spiritual practices. It will consider:


Sacred/profane songs.

Ambient noise/s (in houses, churches, prisons).


Oral culture/s and reading aloud.

Early modern deafness.

Sound, suffering and trauma.

How did godly noises/speeches/music compete with and/or complement one another? Did the propinquity of households/meeting houses/churches hinder or help religious worship? How were the same prayers and sermons spoken/heard differently? Did silence, or its lack thereof, effect the delivery/auditory of God’s Word? In short, what sounds defined and defied British Nonconformity? The full conference programme can be accessed here.

Registration is free, but essential, as places are limited. For more information please visit the conference website.

Obituary: Vincent Newey

We write to share the sad news that Vincent Newey, one of the great Bunyan scholars of his generation, has passed away.

Vince was born and raised in the West Midlands. His teaching career began at the University of Liverpool in 1967, where he remained for twenty-two years before his appointment as Professor of English at the University of Leicester. He took early retirement in 2006, due to ill health.

An outstanding literary critic, Vince’s specialisms encompassed the poetry of the pre-Romantic and Romantic periods (Cowper, Gray, and Goldsmith, as well as Wordsworth, Keats, Shelley, and Byron) alongside the work of several nineteenth-century novelists (Eliot, Dickens, Hardy, and ‘Mark Rutherford’). He published two monographs – Cowper’s Poetry: A Critical Study and Reassessment (1982), and The Scriptures of Charles Dickens: Novels of Ideology, Novels of the Self (2004) – and edited numerous collections of essays.

Members of the International John Bunyan Society will be familiar with the publications that Vince produced on Bunyan. The first was his ground breaking edited volume, The Pilgrim’s Progress: Critical and Historical Views (1980), which included his own fine essay ‘Bunyan and the Confines of the Mind’. Vince also contributed chapters in N. H. Keeble (ed.) John Bunyan: Conventicle and Parnassus (1988), W. R. Owens and Stuart Sim (eds.) Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: Reception, Appropriation, Recollection (2007), and Michael Davies and W. R. Owens (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan (2018). His articles on Bunyan included‘Wordsworth, Bunyan and the Puritan Mind’ (1974);‘Dorothea’s Awakening: The Recall of Bunyan in Middlemarch’ (1984); ‘The Disinherited Pilgrim: Jude the Obscure and The Pilgrim’s Progress’ (1987); ‘Mark Rutherford and John Bunyan: A Study in Relationship’ (2012); and ‘Centring Bunyan: Macaulay, Froude, Hale White’ (2013).

As with every piece Vince published, his writings on Bunyan present a master-class in the art of literary criticism. Each displays the hallmarks of his enviable style: one that combines acute insight and sensitivity to language and form with an ambitious intellectual vision, all shaped by a delicate yet robust prose crafted to convey something profoundly engaging and perceptive. A collection of essays, Literature and Authenticity, 1780–1900, published in Vince’s honour in 2011, includes an ‘Afterword’ paying full tribute to his achievements, and to his incomparable strengths as a reader, teacher, critic, colleague, and friend.

Vince died on Saturday 16 May, aged 76. He is survived by his wife Sue and their two sons, Matthew and Nathan. A member of IJBS for many years, he will be missed, and we mourn his passing.

Michael Davies and Bob Owens

2020 IJBS Early Career Essay Prize

The International John Bunyan Society is pleased to announce that the 2020 Early Career Essay Prize has been awarded to Eleanor Hedger, for her essay entitled ‘Singing in the Face of Death: Making Martyrs on the Scaffold during the English Reformation’. The prize was intended to have been announced at the Regional IJBS Conference planned for 16 April 2020, but this event had to be cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, the winner’s certificate and prize has been sent to Eleanor by David Walker, IJBS President. The selection panel was chaired by Bob Owens, and the members were Rachel Adcock, Isabel Rivers, and David Walker. hedger-eleanor-Cropped-230x230

Eleanor Hedger is a third-year PhD candidate at the University of Birmingham, funded by the Midlands4Cities AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership. A musicologist by training, she completed a BMus in 2014, followed by an MA specialising in Early Music. Her PhD thesis is exploring two unusual and extensive questions: what did the unsettled, conflicted, and turbulent world of post-Reformation England sound like? And what did the sounds associated with conflict, violence, and punishment signify to those that made and heard them? To answer these questions she is carrying out research into the sonic and musical characteristics of conflict and punishment from the start of Mary I’s reign in 1553 until the death of Charles I in 1649. This includes examining the ways in which sound functioned during rituals of punishment, such as public executions and charivari, and also how sound reflected and heightened aspects of social and religious conflict in spaces such as the early modern prison and the parish church. Her argument is that consideration of the sonic experience of such rituals and spaces can serve as a conduit for investigating the complex social, political, and religious tensions that surfaced during this period. Her essay, ‘Heinrich Isaac’s Missa Comme femme desconfortée: A Musical Offering to the Virgin Mary’, has been published in Stefan Gasch, Markus Grassl, and August Valentin Rabe (eds.), Henricus Isaac (ca. 1450–1617): Composition – Reception – Interpretation (Vienna: Hollitzer Verlag, 2019), pp. 177–188.

This is the inaugural year of the IJBS Early Career Essay Prize, which is open to PhD Students and to post-doctoral researchers within the first two years after their viva. Applicants must be members of IJBS. The prize is for outstanding scholarly work in the field of early modern religion and Dissent, including its literature, history and reception. Further details about the prize will be posted on the IJBS website.

2020 IJBS Regional Day Conference Programme

Glorious Sounds: Exploring the Soundscapes of British Nonconformity, 1550-1800

We are pleased to announce that the programme for the 2020 IJBS Regional Day Conference is now set.The conference is organised in association with University of Bedfordshire, Keele University, Loughborough University, Northumbria University and the University of Warwick. Details are below and a Conference Programme can be downloaded here.

Lipman Building (Room 121), Northumbria University,

 Newcastle, Thursday 16 April 2020



10.00–10.20      Registration and coffee

10.20–10.30      Introductory remarks: Robert W. Daniel

10.30–11.30      Plenary 1:
Rosamund Oates, Manchester Metropolitan
Speaking in Hands:  Preaching, Deafness and Sign Language in Early Modern Europe

11.30–11.50      Coffee break

11.50–1.00        First Panel
Robert W. Daniel, University of Warwick:
‘Piety, but Quietly: The Devotional Soundscape of Dissenting Households’
Eleanor Hedger, University of Birmingham:
Acoustic Territorialisation and Sonic Conflict in the Early Modern English Prison’

1.00–2.00          Lunch

2.00–3.30          Second Panel
Matthew Stanton, Queen’s University, Belfast:
‘Charisma and Controversy: Benjamin Keach (1640-1704) and the Debate About Congregational Song’
Rosamund Paice, University of Portsmouth:
‘Sound Theology: Serious Punning in Paradise Lost
Mary Fairclough, University of York:
‘Anna Laetitia Barbauld and the Dissenting Art of Reading’

3.30–3.40          Coffee break

3.40–4.40          Plenary 2:
John Craig, Simon Fraser University:
Sounding Godly: from Bilney to Bunyan

4.40–4.50          Concluding remarks and departure 


Attendance is free of charge, but prior registration by 1 March 2020 is essential as numbers are limited. The conference opens at 10.00am, and ends at 5.00pm. Morning and afternoon refreshments and a light lunch will be provided, costing £15 payable on the day. For further inquiries, please e-mail Robert W. Daniel (, Rachel Adcock (, or David Walker (  Travel information for Northumbria University can be found here.

9th Triennial IJBS Conferenc


The draft programme for the Ninth Triennial IJBS Conference is now available. Download the conference schedule here.

Wednesday August 14

12:00-6:00 Registration Table: Business Atrium

1:00-2:00 Salter Room HC 3-95: Reception for graduate student delegates.

Plenary Panel 1: 2:15-3:45: Writing and Reading Among Dissenting Clergy
Chair: Roger Pooley
Helen Wilcox (Bangor University): “The Dissenter’s Journal as a Textual Network: the Case of Oliver Heywood”
Tim Cooper (University of Otago): “The Correspondence of Richard Baxter”
Robert Daniel (University of Warwick): “’Read their lives in Mr. Clarke’s collection’: Writing and Reading Networks amongst Dissenting English Clergymen, 1650-1700”

4:00-6:00 Bruce Peel Special Collections
The official opening of the Bunyan Exhibition in Bruce Peel Special Collections (curated by Sylvia Brown). The Bruce Peel is one of the four largest repositories in the world for rare Bunyan editions.

6:15-7:30 Plenary Address 1: Kathleen Lynch (Folger Institute): “‘We Protestants in masquerade’: Burning the Pope in London.” Chair: Sylvia Brown

Thursday August 15

8:45-10:00 Plenary Address 2: Ariel Hessayon (Goldsmith’s. University of London): “Social networks and the publication of continental European writings during the English Revolution” Chair: David Walker

Concurrent Session 1: 10:30-12:00
Bunyan’s Contemporaries
Chair: Helen Wilcox
Jameela Lares (University of Southern Mississippi): “There Is No Way but Or:  Method in Bunyan and Milton”
Gary Kuchar (University of Victoria): “The Sounds of Appleton House: Andrew Marvell’s Poetic Audioscapes”
Paul Dyck (Canadian Mennonite University): “Dissenting and Conforming Herbert: tracing the uses of The Temple in the later 17th century”

Towards the Modern and Contemporary
Chair: Rachel Adcock
Andy Draycott (Talbot School of Theology): “Bunyan and Bonhoeffer: honoring prison writers among evangelical inheritors of dissent”
Devin Fairchild (Kent State University): “Anarchy in the UK and Terror in the Garden: a Postcolonial Reading of Paradise Lost and V for Vendetta”
Margaret Breen (University of Connecticut): “Toni Morrison, Temporality, and Networks of Dissent”

12:00-1:00 Lunch

Concurrent Session 3:  1:00-2:30
Travel and Translation
Chair: Kathleen Lynch
Rev. Susanne Gregerson (Independent Scholar): “The first translation of “Pilgrim’s Progress” into Danish”
Shitsuyo Masui (Sophia University, Tokyo): “Olaudah Equiano’s Interesting Narrative and the 18th-century Transatlantic Evangelical Protestantism”
Roger Pooley (Keele University): “Dissenting Itinerancy”

Memory and Meditation
Chair: Tim Cooper
Rachel Adcock (Keele University): “Memorable Acts and Restoration Dissenting Networks”
Tom Schwanda (Wheaton College): “Remembering John Bunyan through the Writings of George Whitefield”
David Walker (University of Northumbria): “Defoe’s Meditations”

Plenary Panel 2: 3:00-4:45: Women, Print Networks, and Publishing 
Moderator: Sylvia Brown

Part 1: Jenna Townend (Loughborough): “Print and literary cultures of dissenting poetry and its readers, 1642-89:
Gary Kelly (University of Alberta): “Sixpenny Print Networks: Bunyan, the Number-trade and Dissent in the Onset of Modernity”

Part 2: Adrea Johnson (University of Alberta): “’I send thee forth’: Bunyan’s Language of Agency in the Work of Susannah Spurgeon”
Vera J. Camden (Kent State University): “Earthly House and Earthly Testimony: Mary Franklin’s Experience” (read in absentia)

7:00-9:00 Anglican Parish of Christ Church, Oliver Neighbourhood
The Appeal of John Bunyan

Friday August 16

8:45-10:00 Plenary Address 3: Alison Chapman (University of Alabama) “Tithes of War. The Early Modern Law of Tithing and Milton’s War in Heaven”  Chair: Arlette Zinck

Concurrent Session 5: 10:30-12:00

Allegory and Hermeneutics
Chair: Paul Dyck
Michael Arbino (Kent State University): “Predestination and Divinely Appointed Companionship in The Pilgrim’s Progress and The Life and Death of Mr. Badman
Richard Bergen (University of British Columbia): “The Word and the World”
Noam Flinker (University of Haifa): “Psalm 51: From Christian Silencing to Judaic Messianism in Mid-17th-Century England”

Bunyan Texts and Contexts
Chair: Jenna Townend
Donovan Tann (Hesston College) “Early Modern Brewing Discourse and Networks of Culpability in John Bunyan’s Life and Death of Mr. Badman” (1680)
Maxine Hancock (Emerita, Regent College) “Mercie’s Mirrors: Reflections and Deflections in the Pilgrim’s Progress, part 2”
Robert Wiznura (MacEwan University), “Anxiety About Complacency: The Holy War”

12:00-1:00 Lunch

1:00-2:15 Plenary Address 4: Feisal Mohamed (Graduate Centre CUNY): “Bunyan and the Annus mirabilis of English Law.” Chair: David Gay


IJBS Business Meeting: 6:15-7:00 Place TBA all are welcome

7:00-10:00 Conference Banquet Papaschase Room: University of Alberta Faculty Club 

Announcement of the Fifth Richard L. Greaves Award / Adjournment

Call for Papers: 9th Triennial IJBS Conference




Founded at the University of Alberta, the IJBS returns to Edmonton for its 9th Triennial Meeting in 2019. Our conference theme is Networks of Dissent: Connecting and Communicating Across the Long Reformation. We invite proposals for 20-minute individual papers and full-session panels on our theme or any topic relating to the literature, culture and history of the Long Reformation, especially touching on the life, works, and legacy of John Bunyan and other dissenting voices of the seventeenth century. Papers in all disciplines are welcome.


  • Social, economic, political, and ecumenical networks
  • Dissenting Academies and educational networks
  • Networks of book production and distribution; news networks
  • Epistolary networks; the circulation of dissenting culture; dissenting readers
  • Transhistorical networks (the long 18th century, the Victorians, and beyond)
  • Travel and trade related to dissent; itinerant preaching
  • Transnational networks of dissent; global Bunyan

Alison Chapman (University of Alabama at Birmingham), author of The Legal Epic: Paradise Lost and the Early Modern Law and Patrons and Patron Saints in Early Modern Literature
Ariel Hessayon (University of London), author of ‘Gold Tried in the Fire’: The Prophet TheaurauJohn Tany and the English Revolution
Kathleen Lynch (Folger Shakespeare Library), author of Protestant Autobiography in the Seventeenth-Century Anglophone World, winner of our society’s 2013 Richard L. Greaves award
Feisal Mohamed (Graduate Center CUNY), author of Milton and the Post-Secular Present: Ethics, Politics, Terrorism and In the Anteroom of Divinity: The Reformation of the Angels from Colet to Milton.

PLEASE EMAIL YOUR QUERIES AS WELL AS PROPOSALS FOR INDIVIDUAL PAPERS OR PANELS (UP TO THREE PAPERS) TO THE ORGANIZERS at Please include a 300-word summary, a title, and a 1-page c.v. Our closing date is March 1, 2019

Organizing Committee: Sylvia Brown (University of Alberta, IJBS General Secretary), David Gay (University of Alberta, IJBS President), and Arlette Zinck (The King’s University, IJBS Founding Member).

Download our Call for Papers flier here: Call For Papers IJBS9

We look forward to your proposals and to welcoming you to Edmonton in 2019!

2018 IJBS Day Conference Programme

The programme for the 2018 IJBS Regional Day Conference is now set. The conference is organised in association with the University of Bedfordshire, Keele University, and Northumbria University. Details are below and a Conference Programme can be downloaded here.


Keele University, Staffordshire, Friday 13 April 2018

10.00–10.20  Registration and coffee

10.20–10.30  Introductory remarks: Rachel Adcock, Bob Owens, David Walker

10.30–11.30   Plenary 1: Johanna Harris, University of Exeter
‘“Heroick vertue”: Joseph Alleine’s letters and Protestant martyrology’

11.30–1.00    First Panel
Ann Hughes, Keele University: ‘“The Churches Cordiall in her fainting fits”: The memorial practices of a Presbyterian activist at the Restoration’
Matthew Bingham, Queen’s University, Belfast: ‘Re-appropriating Ritual and Rethinking Radicalism: General Baptists and the Imposition of Hands’
Joel Halcomb, University of East Anglia: ‘Mystery in the archives: A seventeenth-century journal and its twentieth-century nonconformist historian’

1.00–2.00     Lunch

2.00–3.30     Second Panel
Jenna Townend, Loughborough University: ‘“Not like minded with the Reverd Author”?: Re-appropriations of George Herbert and the formation of dissenting identities’
Andrew Crome, Manchester Metropolitan University: ‘Memories of Münster and Representations of Dissent, 1660-1700’
Robert Daniel, University of Warwick: ‘“To make a second Book of Martyrs”: Re-Appropriating Foxe in the Nonconformist Prison Narratives of Seventeenth-Century England’

3.30–3.40     Tea

3.40–4.40     Plenary 2: John Coffey, University of Leicester
‘Rewriting the History of Dissent’

4.40–4.50     Concluding remarks and departure 

REGISTRATION: Attendance is free of charge, but prior registration by 30 March is essential as numbers are limited. To register, please email,, and giving details of name; title; affiliation; email address; and any dietary requirements; and they will send you a link to the conference ‘e-store’. Morning and afternoon refreshments and a light lunch will be provided, costing £15 payable through the ‘e-store’.

News: Bunyan Round Table


On 23 November 2017, a ‘Bunyan Round Table’ meeting was held at the Swan Hotel in Bedford. Organised and chaired by Ruth Broomhall, it brought together a group of about twenty people with particular interests in Bunyan. Two key issues were discussed. The first was how the profile of Bunyan, and knowledge about him, might be raised and sustained among local people in Bedford and Bedfordshire. The second was how tourist interest in Bunyan might be stimulated, and how visitors to Bedford might be given a richer sense of Bunyan’s importance in the history of the town than is offered at present.

There was general agreement at the meeting that much more could be done to make Bunyan and his Pilgrim’s Progress central to his home town of Bedford in the way that Shakespeare has become central to Stratford-upon-Avon. For example, road signs to Bedford and railway signs could highlight the link with his name and book. Other discussion focussed on ways of enhancing the experience of visitors to Bedford, by, for example, providing a coherent ‘Bunyan Pilgrimage’ package of information and activities, highlighting his literary, historical, and religious significance, taking in sites in Bedford, Elstow and other places. The specific needs of groups of visitors were also discussed. It was suggested that there might be a special ‘Bunyan Bus’ to take such groups to places associated with Bunyan, and that a series of ‘events’, including exhibitions, activities and talks for groups, might be laid on during the main tourist season.

Ruth Broomhall spoke about her own efforts to bring The Pilgrim’s Progress back into school classrooms in Bedford. She has recently published The Pilgrim’s Progress: A Curriculum for Schools, accompanied by a frieze illustrating the story for display on a classroom wall. These materials are designed to help teachers to bring the story to life for primary school children (see her website: One idea discussed at the meeting was the possibility of producing a more extensive ‘Bunyan Pack’ for distribution to Bedford schools. This might include a copy of the Curriculum for Schools together with other material such as a children’s version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, and resources such as Peter Morden’s biography of Bunyan, The People’s Pilgrim.

It was agreed that this inaugural meeting had been extremely useful in drawing together people who were already working to promote knowledge of Bunyan to share ideas about more effective coordination of and support for these efforts. It was agreed to explore the possibility of setting up a not-for-profit/charitable organisation, led by representatives of Elstow Abbey and Bunyan Meeting as the two key Bunyan historical sites. This organisation could then seek grants for specific projects and activities of the kinds discussed. A second meeting of the Bunyan Round Table will be held in February 2018. Further information may be obtained by contacting Ruth Broomhall at:

Bunyan Round Table 2017

‘Bunyan Round Table’ group on the staircase from Houghton House, Ampthill (often thought to have inspired ‘Palace Beautiful’) now at The Bedford Swan Hotel.