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Elstow Church

 Z50-43-67 Elstow church about 1865
Elstow Abbey about 1865 [Z50/43/67]

The Remains of the Abbey 

This page gives a brief architectural overview of the current church buildings; a brief history of the Abbey| is available on a separate page. A much fuller tour of the building can be found on the Abbey's own website|

The church today is a fragment of the old abbey complex, the main body of the modern church being part of the abbey church's nave. The first three bays of the church from the east are Norman, part of Countess Judith's original abbey begun about 1075; the two western bays are of Early English style of about 1225.

When the abbey was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1539 much was pulled down and what remained was adopted for the use of the parish. By 1580 the east end had been completed to its current state and a west window had been inserted. The structure now used as a vestry was also a part of the original abbey which was retained. The tower, one of only two in Bedfordshire to be detached from the main body of the church (the other being Marston Moretaine) is also part of the original abbey, being completed in the 15th century.

 Elstow Abbey from NW Sep 2007
Elstow Abbey from north-west Sep 2007


Archdeacon Bonney noted that considerable restoration work was carried out on the church between 1823 and 1828, no categorical information survives about what was done but a watercolour by Thomas Fisher of about 1815 shows a timber framed north porch and a different looking west end of the south aisle and so it is likely that the one was removed and the other altered during this restoration.

Around 1860 a vestry on the north side of the church, abutting the second bay of the north aisle, was demolished. The second great 19th century restoration occurred between 1880 and 1882 by Bedford architect Thomas Jobson Jackson, paid for largely by the Whitbread family of Southill. The south aisle was rebuilt and much altered, including addition of a stair turret at the west end; parts of the nave and its clerestory were completely rebuilt and the church was comprehensively re-roofed and re-seated.

In 1883 and 1885 stained glass windows depicting John Bunyan were added in the east wall by T.W.Camm of Smethwick.

Most of the notes on the structural history of the church can be found in greater detail in Bedfordshire Historical Record Society Volume number 73 of 1994 Bedfordshire Churches in the Nineteenth Century: Part I: parishes A to G, put together by former County Archivist Chris Pickford from numerous sources some held by Bedfordshire & Luton Archives & Records Service and some held elsewhere or published.

The church of St.Mary & St.Helena now forms part of the Elstow Team Ministry with Cardington and Bedford, St.Michael & All Angels. Each church has its own incumbent, parochial church council and church officers but works as a team, pooling certain resources as necessary.

Tree in Elstow Abbey churchyard Sep 2007
tree in churchyard Sep 2007

List of Rectors

- Roger de Weseham - 1222 [in succession to Henry, chaplain];
- Haumon de Weseham - 1235 [chaplain, in succession to Roger de Weseham];
- Alexander de Elnestowe - 1235 [to portion of Church in succession to Simon de Elnestowe];
- John de Elnestowe - 1247 [subdeacon, to portion of church, in succession to Alexander, brother of John];
- Hamon;
- John - 1259 [chaplain, on death of Hamon];
- Richard de Salested;
- Richard Scot - 21 Mar 1273 [chaplain, to part of church, on death of Richard de Salested;
- M. Matthew de Dunstaple - 17 Oct 1275 [subdeacon, to part, on death of Richard Scot];
- Robert de Welye - 23 Sep 1284 [clerk, in minor orders, to part , on death of Matthew de Dunstaple];
- Hugh de Suthluffenham - 25 May 1311 [chaplain, to part, on death of Robert de Welye];
- Thomas de Baumbergh - 26 Sep 1317 [acolite, to part, on death of Robert de Welye];
- William Fincayl - 5 May 1318 [deacon, to part, on death of Hugh de Luffenham];
- John de Felmersham - 1 Aug 1324 [acolite, to part, on resignation of William Synkal];
- William de Tykhull - 5 May 1325 [to part, on resignation of Thomas de Baumburgh];
- M. Robert le Spicer - 24 Jun 1335 [of Farendon, on resignation of William de Tekhill];
- D. Hugh de Estmarcham - 27 Mar 1336 [Rector of Bradested, by exchange with Robert le Spicer, de Farendon, Rector of part];
- Adam de Brandon - 12 Oct 1339 [priest, to part, on resignation of Hugh];
- Nicholas Holham - 7 Dec 1340 [priest, to part, on resignation of Adam de Brandon];
- John Bachelor;
- Robert de la Beche - 26 May 1342 [priest, to part, on resignation of John Bachelor];
- John Kyng - 1526 [curate];
- Thomas Blocksley [curate];
- Robert Hundley - 1605 [M.A., Curate];
- Robert Twisden - 1612;
- Henry Bird - 1617 [vicar];
- John Bellay -1623 [clerk];
- Andrew Cater - 165- [clerk, married Mrs Alice Clarke at Old Warden, 21 Mar 1658];
- Christopher Hall [Vicar, buried 26 May 1666];
- David Jerland [Vicar, buried 9 Jun 1668];
- D. Longhorne [1668];
- John Robinson - 1686 [curate];
- Joseph Hobbs - 1696;
- John Towersey - 1707;
- John Aubrey - 1715;
- Robert Phipp;
- John Smith - 31 Oct 1782 [clerk, curate, on nomination of Dennis Farrer Hillersdon of Elverstow Lodge, Esq., on death of Robert Phipp];
- Thomas Cave - 25 Apr 1806 [clerk, to Curacy of, on death of John Smith];
- George Hull Bowers - 5 Jun 1819 [clerk, to Perpetual Curacy, on death of Thomas Cave];
- John Wing - 1 May 1832 [clerk, to Perpetual Curacy, on resgination of G H Bowers];
- John Gaskin - 2 Feb 1849 [M.A., licenced to parish curacy, on cessation of John Wing];
- John Henry Augustus Rudd - 29 Jul 1852 [B.A., licenced to parish curacy, on death of John Gaskin. Resigned 15 Oct 1867];
- James Copner - 4 Dec 1867 [M.A.on resignation of J.H.A. Rudd];
- George Parker - Apr 1896;
- Charles Frederick Bonney Hawkins - Jan 1905;
- Stanley Victor Hartley - 1920;
- Peter Goodwin Hartley - 1953;
- Michael James Murfin Norton - 1976;
- John Andrew Tibbs - 1983;
- Richard William Huband - 1991;
- Jeremy R.Crocker - 2003