Saturday July 13th, visit to Ely Cathedral and Cromwell's House
After a short delay 42 of us boarded
the coach for our trip to Ely. It was a
cloudy but warm day when we alighted
outside the magnificent Ely Cathedral.
We gathered inside and most of us went
on an enjoyable and very informative
guided tour of the Cathedral at ground
level. We learned that a church has sat
on this site since 673 when
St Etheldreda a Saxon Princess founded her Monastery.
The Benedictines, who also built our priory in Great Yarmouth, restored Ely in 970. Although our priory is not as grand, both have shown the power of the Norman conquerors, reflecting the wealth of the monastic community whilst proclaiming the glory of God then as they do today. “The whole place”, said one member, “was magnificent – beyond what I had expected. We were amazed at the grandeur of the building, and its astonishing stained glass windows. Later in the afternoon we were fortunate enough to hear the organ playing and the choir singing – superb”.
A smaller group visited the Cathedral’s Lantern
Tower and gave us these comments: “Eight of us
climbed the winding staircase to the top to see the
views over 40 miles of Fenland. The Norman central
tower collapsed in 1322. The sacrist, Alan of
Walsingham, decided to create an octagon tower in
stone, topped with wood and encased in lead. It
weighs 400 tonnes and is 60 feet high. We were
able to see the oak timbers still in place made from
trees that were three hundred years old when they
were floated up the River Ouse over six centuries
ago. We opened panels of painted angels to look
down on the nave. Parry’s angels are as fresh as if
they were painted yesterday rather than in 1859.
Climbing to the roof we looked up to the top of
the Lantern 60’, held up by eight vertical great
beams. The view was glorious and like a lantern the tower is seen for miles.”
Many of the group also visited the Stained Glass Museum and comments were “amazing”.
We wandered outside to be greeted by groups of
Morris Dancers from all over the country. It was
the Ely Folk Festival - what a wonderful atmosphere.
We watched the dancing, which dates back to the 15th
century, whilst in the skies above there were modern-
day fighter jets. It was hard to reconcile the two,
so I didn’t!
Stairs to the fine stained glass museum, Ely Cathedral
Cromwell House Museum
Many of us also went to Oliver Cromwell’s House. Cromwell, the son of a country gentleman, was born in 1599 at Huntingdon and moved with his family into the Ely house in 1636. The mistrust between
King and Parliament culminated in the trial
and execution of King Charles I in 1649.
One of our own local MPs, Miles Corbet
from Great Yarmouth, was the last
signatory on the death warrant.
During the civil war of 1642 Cromwell was
sent to organize the defence of Norfolk.
He was a brave and organized man and
when the East Anglian counties formed
the Eastern Association, Cromwell was put
in charge of the Cavalry. In 1653 the
country became a commonwealth and Oliver
Cromwell, refusing to be called King,
became Lord Protector. The monarchy was
restored in 1660 less than 2 years after
I can’t begin to tell you the enormous
amount of history associated with this
once ‘Isle of Ely’, the fenland around
drained in the 17th Century, and the
beautiful Cathedral which stands as
‘The ship of the Fens’.
Display from the Cromwell Museum
The magnificent Ely Cathedral 'Prior's Door'
Written and compiled by Janet Edwards
Photographs by Stephen Johnson