Museum Artefacts

Museum artefacts

Below is information on some of the artefacts used by John Bunyan.


By occupation Bunyan was a tinker, an itinerant mender of pots and pans. This is the anvil he used when plying his trade. The anvil weighs some 60 lbs, and is inscribed "J. Bunyan, Helstowe, 1647". The anvil, or brazier's spike, has a pointed end, so that it could be pushed upright into the soft earth, and then the tinker could hammer out his living on its flat surface. It has been wondered how Bunyan could carry the anvil and his bag of tools as he went round the villages of Bedfordshire mending pots and pans. Bunyan was a big strong man, with broad shoulders, and he was too poor at that time to have afforded to keep a horse. So heavy as it was, he must have carried it on his shoulders; and as he bore the weight of it and felt the relief when he laid it down, it may have led him to write (in The Pilgrim's Progress) of Christian's sins as being a heavy burden that he had to carry on his back, until he lost it at the Cross.


Wooden Flute

While Bunyan was in prison he had a three-legged stool in his cell, and is believed to have taken a leg from it, hollowed it out and made himself a flute. While the gaoler was absent, at the adjoining public house, Bunyan could have played on it. When the gaoler came round to find out where the sound of music was coming from, he would have put the leg back into the stool and sat on it, thus avoiding its discovery and confiscation.

Iron Violin

Bunyan must have been more than a humble tinker. This is his home-made violin. He was fond of music, apparently making his own instrument, not of wood but of metal. His name is on the back of it, and you can see by its construction that the maker of it was not just a mender of pots and pans, but a skilled craftsman. Those who have played it say that it has a remarkably fine tone, considering that it is made of metal.

Stoneware Jug

Religious prisoners such as Bunyan were allowed certain privileges. His wife and children were allowed to visit him, and bring him in one meal a day; and one of the most treasured relics in the Museum is a small salt-glazed stoneware jug said to have been used by his daughter Mary to bring his soup and ale.

Bunyan's Vestry Chair

Bunyan was a tall man. This is confirmed by his vestry chair used during his ministry from 1672 to 1688. One of Bunyan's successors, Joshua Symonds, who was rather small, found that the chair was too high for him to sit in, and he had the legs shortened. The chair, made of beechwood, may be seen in the curved linear feature. The spindles on the back and sides of the chair have disappeared over the years, possibly taken as souvenirs, and now only one spindle remains.

Bunyan's Will

One of the most important documents in the Museum is Bunyan's will or deed of gift, dated 23 December 1685. Charles II had died that year and with the accession of James II religious persecution broke out again. Many Nonconformist ministers were put in prison, and it may have been because John Bunyan feared another term of imprisonment that he thought it wise to make this will, in which he left all his worldly goods to his wife Elizabeth. For safe keeping the will was hidden in the chimney breast of his house in St Cuthbert's Street, and was not found until 1838 when the house was demolished.


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