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

his death.

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


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