Ely Cathedral and Cromwell's HouseEly
                cathedral exterior

Saturday 13 July

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!

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’.

Written and compiled by Janet Edwards

Photographs by Stephen Johnson

 Ely Cathedral Interior chancel Ely Cathedral Interior vaulting

(Above left: Ely Cathedral Interior chancel.  Above, right Ely Cathedral Interior vaulting and the lantern)

Ely Cathedral stairs to the fine stained glass

(Above: Ely Cathedral stairs to the fine stained glass museum)
(Below: Ely Cathedral Prior's Door)

              Cathedral Prior's Door

(Below: Cromwell's House, Ely)

Oliver Cromwell's House Museum-4

(Below: Display from the Cromwell Museum)

Display from the Cromwell House Museum
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