Elstow village is best known as the birthplace of the 17th century preacher and author John Bunyan. But Elstow history stretches back many hundreds of years before Bunyan's birth. Evidence of a burial ground and the discovery of the base of a carved Saxon Cross show that there was an early Saxon settlement here. But all the buildings which make up the village of today were built following the establishment, in 1078, of Elstow Abbey. A Benedictine nunnery, Elstow Abbey existed for 452 years, growing to become the 3rd largest in Britain. By the 16th century, there were plans for it to become a cathedral - the present-day Abbey church, whilst still impressive, is less than half the length it was in the 14th century. In the early 12th century, the Abbey was granted a charter by Henry I, permitting the nuns to hold an annual fair, from 2nd to the 5th May. These were not like modern day fairs, but were commercial events, where all sorts of products, livestock, clothes food etc., would have been sold. Elstow fair was large, occupying not just the village green but several of the adjacent fields. The Abbey gained a considerable income from these fairs; they charged rents for stalls and booths, levied tolls for entry and probably also had its own stalls where the nuns sold produce from the Abbey. As the Abbey grew, cottages to house tradesmen and other lay workers were built and also several inns, to house the many visitors to the Abbey and its fairs. Many of these properties were owned by, and probably built on the instruction of, the Abbess. The Abbey owned numerous other properties in Bedfordshire, as well as in 10 other counties and the rental from these formed a substantial part of the Abbey's annual income. Perhaps the Abbey's most unusual building project was The Green House (The Moot Hall's former name). This was designed to be a market-house and built in the late 15th century, possibly by the Abbey's carpenter, William Arnold. Construction of such a substantial building demonstrates scale of the fairs and their importance to the Abbey. The ground floor of this building was divided into bays, used as shop booths and for storing stalls and other equipment for the fairs. The upstairs was used for the "court of pie powder" - for the hearing of disputes arising at the fairs, examining merchant's credentials and testing weights and measures. Elstowe Manor Court sessions were also held in this upstairs room. In 1554, Thomas Bonyon (John Bunyan's great, great Grandfather) was a member of the "homage" (presiding jury) when his wife was fined 1 penny for 'breaking the assize of ale'. She also appears on nearly all of this court's subsequent records for committing further offences involving the sale of ale or bread! Two years after the 1539 Dissolution Act, the green and Abbey were leased to Edmund Harvey, whose daughter, Isabel, subsequently married Sir Humphrey Radcliffe. In 1553, Edward V gave Radcliffe the former Abbey's estate with all its manorial rights. Sir Humphrey died just 13 years later. In 1616, his son Edward sold the estate to Sir Thomas Hillersden, who built a grand manor house, named Elstow Place, incorporating walls from the former inner cloister.