Visit Ely and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Ely, Cambridgeshire, stands above the River Ouse on a bluff which was formerly an island, accessible only by boat or causeways until The Fens were drained in the 17th and 18th centuries. It was the scene of Hereward's resistance to William the Conqueror. Just as the flat horizon of the fens is dominated by Ely's great cathedral so in its turn is the cathedral dominated by its magnificent west tower and the unique octagonal lantern. Ely itself contains, apart from its cathedral and two or three other buildings of merit, little of historic interest compared to some other East Anglian towns of similar size. Yet such is the splendour of the cathedral founded by St Etheldreda in A.D. 673 that the town is worth a visit.
On entering the cathedral through the Galilee Porch you are passing through the first addition to the original Norman structure. At once the length of the nave is apparent; only those of Canterbury, St Albans and Winchester are longer than Ely's 537 ft. Passing the rows of Norman columns, you will see above you the painted wooden ceiling 72 ft from the ground followed at once by the octagon and lantern, a unique medieval inspiration. Conceived by Alan of Walsingham over 600 years ago, the extraordinary effect of its design with its beautiful fan vaulting and delicate tracery makes it one of the highlights of English architecture. A model on show in the transept illustrates the problem facing the medieval craftsmen who had not only to design a structure capable of supporting over 400 tons of wood and lead, but, with only simple equipment at their command, to get the great timbers into position.
Entering the choir with its admirably carved choir stalls you soon reach the point where the original Norman building was damaged when the central tower fell in 1322. The extension of the cathedral to the east is clearly seen in the line of delicately pointed arches leading up into the lierne vaulting of the roof. Here the relics of St Etheldreda were placed in their new resting place in 1252.
The chapels which surround this extension contain some of the most elaborate and extraordinary carvings to be seen in England, and the transepts on either side of the octagon are no less remarkable for their highly decorated roofs with angels as hammer bearers. At the north-east corner of the north transept is the Lady Chapel, the building of which was supervised by John of Wisbech and which was completed in 1349. Now the windows are plain and the whiteness of the walls gives the chapel a remarkable lightness. Once again the ceiling is important and each of the many bosses is a work of art in itself. Around the walls are stone stalls with fine carvings each of which has lost its head at the hands of some zealous reformer.
Around the precincts of the cathedral are the houses of the King's School founded by Henry VIII. Nearby is the Bishop's Palace and St Mary's Church, in the vicarage of which lived Cromwell and his family from 1636 to 1647.
Looking back to the west front of the cathedral from the converted Fire Engine House at the end of the green you may speculate on the appearance of the cathedral had not the north-west transept disappeared in the 14th century. Leaving Ely on the Newmarket Road to the south east gives us perhaps the finest view with the east end, the lantern and the tower forming a noble composition. The village of Stuntney 1 mile to the south east is where Cromwell once owned a farm; its hill commands a famous view of Ely.
Nearby cities: Cambridge
Nearby towns: Burwell, Chatteris, Littleport, Mildenhall, Newmarket
Nearby villages: Haddenham, Lakenheath, Little Downham, Little Thetford, Manea, Mepal, Prickwillow, Queen Adelaide, Witchford
Have you decided to visit Ely or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Ely bed and breakfast (a Ely B&B or Ely b and b)
- a Ely guesthouse
- a Ely hotel (or motel)
- a Ely self-catering establishment, or
- other Ely accommodation