John Bunyan was born in Elstow, near Bedford in 1628. After a rudimentary schooling, at the age of sixteen he was conscripted by edict to join the Parliamentary army during the English Civil War. His mother and sister died in that same year. After three years in the army, having seen little action, he left to work for his father as a tinker, a maker of metal pots and pans. By his own admission he had lived a wild life in his youth but settled down after his marriage in 1649. After hearing God’s voice, he became a preacher, writing his first book, Gospel Truths Opened in 1656. His wife died in 1658 by which time they had had four children. He remarried the following year and had two further children with her.
After the Restoration of the monarchy in 1660 religious tolerance was curtailed and he was jailed the following year for continuing to preach as a non-conformist. During the eleven years of incarceration he wrote Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, a spiritual autobiography which was published in 1666. He also commenced writing the allegorical work, Pilgrim’s Progress, for which he is best known and which was published some years after his release. In 1672 the King issued a declaration of indulgence and he was released but imprisoned again for six months in 1676 for refusing to attend church.
In 1680 he wrote The Life and Death of Mr Badman and The Holy War and Pilgrim’s Progress Part II in 1682. He died of a fever contracted after a rainstorm in 1688. In addition to his books, he wrote many sermons and a considerable amount of poetry, including the well known hymn, To Be A Pilgrim. Bunyan was a devout, courageous, individual and his poetry, much of which is allegorical, reflects his high principles and his unimpeachable morality. There is a statue commemorating him in Bedford.