Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Monday 15 February 2021

A tale of two cities: Ely (3)

Outside, you might wonder why there's a cannon defending the Cathedral

It might have something to do with the fact that it's pointing straight at the house that Oliver Cromwell lived in during the 1630s and 1640s, as a rising farmer, country gentleman, Presbyterian (and no fan of bishops, cathedrals or stained glass), and MP.

Part of the ground floor doubles as the Tourist Information Office, but the rest is devoted to presenting the domestic interiors of the day.

Upstairs, there's an outline history of the causes and conduct of the Civil Wars, exploring Cromwell's record as he emerged as a leader in Parliament, army general and ultimately, as "Lord Protector", more or less military dictator and monarch in all but name. Visitors are invited to rate him Hero or Villain - it seemed it had been running around 65-35 in favour of "Hero", reinforcing (for those who remember their 1066 And All That) the view that the Roundheads were Right but Repulsive and the Cavaliers Wrong but Wromantic.

A few streets away there's a small local history museum, with plenty for school parties to get to grips with, from prehistoric finds to the draining of the Fens around about (Cromwell's first big local issue as an MP, standing up for displaced local farmers), eel-fishing (hence the town's name), the history of the assorted criminals and unfortunates who ended up in the building when it was the Bishop's Gaol, and Ely's experience in WW2 as a centre for both evacuees from London and massive numbers of airmen on bases nearby. 

Those apart, it's a pleasant, busy and reasonably well-serviced small town, though my photos don't capture much of that (I can never get over the habit of not taking pictures of the humdrum and everyday, even though that might be of most interest to others). The bland chainstore frontages of the main shopping streets somewhat conceal interesting side alleyways.

And on the way back to the station, it's worth a diversion to a well-pubbed waterside:


  1. I simply cannot remember when Beloved and I visited Ely. It was certainly before they charged an entrance fee to the cathedral.
    What I remember most of all though is the sight of the spire rising out of the Fen landscape. A slight mist haze made the view magical.

  2. Yes, there is something mysterious about the way it seems to float above its surroundings, and no doubt even more so in a mist.