|ELY TOWN TRAIL|
1) OLIVER CROMWELL'S HOUSE AND TOURIST INFORMATION
This is the only remaining house other than Hampton Court where Oliver Cromwell and his family are known to have lived. The present east wing represents what is left of the original 13th century building. The house is some 750 years old and it has had a varied history. In the 1840's it was a public house aptly called "The Cromwell Arms" and from 1905-1986 it was the vicarage for the adjoining St. Mary's Church. Inside several rooms have been refurbished in Cromwellian style and an audio visual presentation gives an insight into the domestic, military and political aspects of his life. The Tourist Information Centre is located downstairs and is unique in its period style and atmosphere. Click here for close-up of the two models/dummies outside Cromwell`s House.
2) ST. MARY'S CHURCH
Situated to the right of Oliver Cromwell's House, St. Mary`s Church was built in the 13th century by Bishop Eustace, with the tower and spire added in the 14th century. In 1638 Cromwell's youngest daughter was baptised in this church. In 1816 a famine caused riots in Littleport and Ely, resulting in transportation or imprisonment for some, whilst others were hung. A tablet on the tower wall commemorates their part in the riots, and burial place. Walking towards the Cathedral you pass the Old Fire Engine House on your left, a restaurant specialising in traditional English food and with an interesting art gallery. The building once housed the local fire engine.
3) THE CANNON ON THE
Was captured from the Russians in Sebastopol and given to Ely City by Queen Victoria in 1860 after the Crimean War. Her gift was in recognition of the successful formation of the Ely Rifle Volunteers.
4) BISHOP'S PALACE
Heading towards the Cathedral you can see on your right the Bishop's Palace dating from the 15th century and now a Sue Ryder Home. It's gardens contain a large plane tree said to have been planted by Bishop Gunning over 300 years ago, the oldest plane tree in England. Opposite the Palace is a privately owned home known as the Chantry; it is on the site of Bishop Northwold's Chantry Chapel. The Cathedral and it's surrounding buildings were originally part of a monastery founded in the 7th century. The present Cathedral building was begun around 1083 and it took just over 100 years for the building work to be completed. Cross the road to the main entrance where there was once a gallery from the Bishop`s Palace, opposite, to the Cathedral for the Bishop's use: hence the street name "The Gallery".
5) GREAT HALL OF THE MONASTERY
Walking along the Gallery you will come to the Bishop's house on the left, once the Great Hall of the Monastery. The house is private, but from it's gateway you can get the best view of the Octagon and Lantern in the centre of the Cathedral. The original Norman tower collapsed in 1322 and was replaced by this Octagon and the Lantern, which took 30 years and 8 huge oaks to build! It's framework is unique in the world, estimated to weigh 400 tons, and once included a set of bells. It is a medieval engineering feat still much admired by modern architects and builders.
6) ELY PORTA OR WALPOLE GATE
Several yards further down the Gallery you will come to the Ely Porta or Walpole Gate. This was once the main entrance to the monastery and through it have passed travellers, pilgrims, monarchs and other nobility over many centuries. The gate was begun in 1396, completed in 1417 and is now part of the King's School, a public school.
7) & 8) PRIOR CRAUDEN'S CHAPEL (7) PRIOR'S HOUSE
Passing through the Porta on your right you can see the monastic barn (14th century), part of which is now the school dining room. To the immediate left is a path that leads to Prior Crauden's Chapel (7) 1324-25, and the Prior's House (8) both of which are used by the King's School.
9) QUEEN'S HALL
Look up at the impressive cluster of buildings that rise up to the towering Cathedral behind. The 14th century Queen's Hall which adjoins the Great Hall, was built by Prior Crauden to entertain Queen Phillipa, wife of Edward 111.
10) & 11) MONASTIC INFIRMARY (10) POWCHER'S HALL (11)
Walk back in the direction of the Porta and take the other path leading back again towards the Cathedral, passing the meadow (See Plan). Approach the south door but first turn to your right to face the cluster of monastic buildings there. This group was formally the Monastic Infirmary (10) on the left is Powcher's Hall (11) once the blood-letting house of the monastery. Here the practice, thought to be healthy, of using leeches to bleed the monks several times a year took place.
12) THE BLACK HOSTELRY
Was originally built to accomodate Monks from other Benedictine Monasteries. It is now a Canon's residence, continuing it's traditional role as a hostelry by letting rooms for bed and breakfast.
13) WALSINGHAM HOUSE
Is now part of the King's School but it was originally built by Alan of Walsingham, Sacrist to the Abbey, in 1335, to entertain the monks visiting relations.
14),15) SACRIST'S GATE/GOLDSMITH'S TOWER
Walking round to the east end of the Cathedral, you pass through the former Monk's cemetary. The path leads to the SACRIST'S GATE (14) or tradesman's entrance and GOLDSMITHS TOWER (15). These medieval buildings formed the Sacristy built in 1325.
To the right of the Sacrist's Gate is the ALMONRY. The Almoner was the church official who distributed alms (sometimes in the form of food) to the poor at the Almonry Gates. Now you can enjoy afternoon tea there!
17) STEEPLE GATEWAY
The path continues parallel to the Cathedral and past the ancient STEEPLE GATEWAY. Pilgrims may have walked from the market square to the monastery this way. The timber framed gateway was built in the Tudor period, and was the entrance to the burial ground of the church of St. Cross which adjoined the Cathedral.
18) LAMB HOTEL
Continue along the path until you reach the Gallery once more. Turn right and immediately left into St. Mary's Street, passing the front of the LAMB HOTEL. The history of the Lamb Hotel itself may go back to the 14th century, and early pilgrims to the Cathedral would have stayed here. In the day's of the 19th century militia, the hotel served as an Officer's Mess.
19) BEDFORD HOUSE
Walking down St. Mary's Street you come to BEDFORD HOUSE . This was the headquarters of the Bedford Level Corporation 1844-1864, responsible for fenland drainage. The coat of arms of the corporation is still above the door, depicting a man with a spade and another with a scythe with the motto underneath ARRIDET ARRIDUM. Translated this means Dryness Pleaseth.
20),21) THE MALTINGS/QUAY HOUSE
Approach the river's edge near the bridge, and look over to the other side, still known as "Babylon" and owned privately. With your back to the river look to the buildings opposite; the house on the corner of the lane was once a house of correction for young ladies, called "The Haven". The oddly shaped little house to the left of the Riverside Restaurant is the "Ladder House", so called because it housed the ladders for the nearby brewery and THE MALTINGS (20). The builder of the Maltings, Ebenezer Harlock, lived at the QUAY HOUSE (21), which is the Riverside Restaurant now. The Maltings, built in 1868, was converted into a public hall in 1971 and now has rooms available for hire, as well as serving meals and drinks. In 1868 it was used for malting barley. High temperatures were used to cause the barley to sprout, before it could be taken to the brewery. Now walk along the riverside in front of the Maltings. The walk is known as Quai D'Orsay, and was named shortly after the twinning of East Cambridgeshire District with the town of Orsay in France, in 1980\81. The first boathouse you see on the opposite bank belongs to the King's School Ely, while the second one belongs to the University of Cambridge. The Cambridge crew practice here before the famous Boat Race each year.
22),23) CUTTER INN/THE OLD BOAT HOUSE
Continue alongside the river's edge. Notice the old boat crane on the opposite bank used for unloading goods. Shortly after this you reach the CUTTER INN (22), so called because the river Ouse towards the North East was actually diverted ("cut") to bring it nearer to Ely. Further along, THE OLD BOAT HOUSE (23) is now a popular restaurant.
24) THE THREE BLACKBIRDS
Walk up to the side of the Cutter Inn and follow the path straight ahead until you reach the old house at the end called THE THREE BLACKBIRDS. This is a listed building constructed towards the end of the 13th century and considerably altered in the first half of the 14th century. Originally a merchant's house, there was an opening in the lower hall that was used for handling money with the least risk of being robbed. It was later a public house and is one of the earlier secular buildings in the district. Turn right into Broad Street and cross the road. A gateway on the left leads into Cherry Park. The path offers an excellent view of the Cathedral and monastic buildings.
Cherry Hill to the left of the path contains an obelisk to Canon Bentham, an 18th century church historian. The mound is all that survives of what was originally a "Motte and Bailey" type castle, later in the 14th century a windmill stood on the summit and was used to grind corn for the monk's bread.
25) SILVER STREET
The path takes you back to Ely Porta (6) through which you may pass and turn right into the Gallery once more. Before you proceed up the Gallery, look at the weavers' cottages along SILVER STREET (25). These buildings date from the 14th century; wall paintings recently discovered in the houses suggest this. The red brick building across Barton Square was the former Theological College and is now part of the King's School. Notice also the traditional red Telephone Kiosk on the green, it is protected by an official Preservation Order and will not be replaced! Cross the road opposite the Cathedral and take up trail A once more from the Lamb Hotel (18). This will lead you back to Oliver Cromwell's House.