Weekly City Spotlight: Ely


Skyline View of Ely

Located in Cambridgeshire, Ely is a city that is both historic and picturesque.  Close to both Cambridge and Newmarket, and approximately 80 miles from London, Ely is situated on a kimmeridge clay island within the Fens, and surrounded by beautiful countryside.  Ely offers a range of attractions including its magnificent Cathedral, museums and galleries.  The Waterside provides a chance to explore peaceful surroundings on foot, with the option to take a boat trip on the Great Ouse.  With a wealth of cafés, restaurants and an abundance of shops, Ely provides a great location for a city break.

Historic Ely
In 673 AD, under the instruction of St Etheldreda who was the Daughter of King Anna, an Anglo Saxon King, the abbey was built in Ely.  Following the Danish invasion in 870, the abbey was sadly destroyed, however rebuilding took place and the site would be further developed with the building of the Cathedral in 1083.  Striking features of the cathedral include the octagon which was rebuilt by Alan of Walsingham following partial collapse of the building in 1322.

Built by William the Conqueror, Ely Castle was located in the area now known as Cherry Hill.  Motte and Bailey in design, it is believed the construction of the castle began in 1070. During the Second Barons’ War in the late 1600’s it is understood to have been demolished.  The area of the castle mound has been the site of many archaeological finds, including evidence of settlements for both the Vikings and the Normans.  Many of the treasures discovered remain on display in the Ely Museum.

Oliver Cromwell lived in Ely for a period of 10 years from 1636, at St Mary’s Vicarage which he inherited from his Uncle together with a number of other properties.  Cromwell became the tithe (tax) collector for the Cathedral, a position previously held by his Uncle, which proved lucrative work for Cromwell.

Popular Culture
Ely is an historic and cultural city, and has also been a focus in popular culture.

Films & TV
Jupiter Ascending, starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum and due for release in 2014, featured Ely Cathedral as a film location.

The Kings Speech (2010), Ely Cathedral was featured in this blockbuster movie starring Colin Firth as King George VI, and tells the tale of the Monarch’s battle to overcome his speech impediment with the assistance of Geoffrey Rush who played his therapist.

Elizabeth, The Golden Age (2007), this period drama stars Cate Blanchett as Queen Elizabeth and Clive Owen as Sir Walter Raleigh, during the time of the Spanish Armada. Film of Ely Cathedral was used as the interior of Whitehall Palace.

Phillipa Pearce’s novel, Tom’s Midnight Garden is set in Ely with Ely Cathedral also featuring in this children’s story, inspired by her Father’s childhood memories.

Jim Kelly is an award winning crime writer.  Kelly lives in Ely and has featured the city and the surrounding area in his Philip Dryden Mystery series of novels.

Social Media
Additional information on Ely can be found on its official website Visit Ely, as well as its Twitter, account.

Famous Faces
Sir Clive Woodward, was born in Ely on 6th January 1956, and following his career from rugby union, he coached the England team to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. Currently Woodward is the Director of Elite Performance for the British Olympic Association.

Guy Pearce who starred in such films was Prometheus, The Kings Speech and Lockout was born in Ely on 5th October 1967.  Pearce moved to Australia when he was 3 years old.

Kenneth Horatio Wallis was both on the 26 April 1916 in Ely, following an extensive career in the RAF, which included 28 bomber missions in the Second World War, Wing Commander Wallis was a designer and producer of Autogyros and broke 34 world records during his Autogyros flights.



Home of Oliver Cromwell

The Home of Oliver Cromwell
Located in St Mary’s Street is the home of Oliver Cromwell, a resident of Ely for some 10 years dating back to the 1636, the home has been restored to recreate an historic portrayal of his family’s life at this time.  Open all year, this attraction is a centre for tourist information and also holds family events for all to enjoy.

Ely Cathedral
The Cathedral in Ely offers an awe-inspiring experience for its thousands of visitors each year.  This impressive and striking example of both Romanesque and gothic architecture, is the Seat of the Bishop of Ely, with parts of the cathedral dating back to 1083. Work to restore the Cathedral began in 1845 and continued for nearly 30 years.  The site itself was a Christian place of worship from as early as 673, when St Etheldreda instructed to build a monastery on the site.  The Cathedral is also home to the Stained Glass Museum, located on the Upper Level of the South triforium.

The Ely Museum
The Museum, which is situated in Ely’s Gaol in Market Street, provides a chance to explore Ely’s history and its collections of artefacts which include Roman remains, Anglo Saxon jewellery and fascinating collections of fossils and pre-historic weapons.  The restored Gaol offers an interesting venue for the museum, where an insight into the eel trade which Ely is famous for can also be gained during your visit.

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