On 11th July, 36 members and friends visited Ely, the second outing of the 2015 summer programme. We were again blessed with fine weather.
On arrival, we gathered outside of the north entrance of the Cathedral for a short photo shoot before heading off to ‘the Almonry’ restaurant where coffee, tea and biscuits awaited us in the 11th century undercroft. Suitably refreshed, we entered the cathedral where we received an informative guided tour. Our guides were enthusiastic and knowledgeable and we learned a great deal…
In 673 AD, Queen Etheldreda founded a monastery on the site of what is now Ely Cathedral and it flourished for 200 years until it was destroyed by the Danes. It was refounded as a Benedictine community in 970. Work on the present Cathedral began in the 11th century under the leadership of Abbot Simeon, and the monastic church became a cathedral in 1109 with the Diocese of Ely being carved out of the Diocese of Lincoln. The monastery at Ely was dissolved by Henry VIII in 1539. It suffered less than many other monasteries, but even so, statues were destroyed together with carvings and stained glass. St Etheldreda’s Shrine was also destroyed. The Cathedral was refounded with a Chapter of eight canons in 1541 as was the Kings School. Robert Steward, the last Prior of the monastery, became the first Dean. The first major restoration took place in the 18th Century under James Essex. With the arrival of Dean George Peacock in 1839 a second restoration project began. Together with the architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, he restored the building to its former glory. A third major restoration project, the most extensive to date, was begun in 1986 and was completed in the year 2000.
After the tour we repaired for lunch following which we meandered at will and/or participated in optional visits to the Stained Glass Museum and/or Oliver Cromwell’s House. The Stained Glass Museum, located in the South Triforium of the Cathedral, is the only one of its kind in the UK and exhibits over 100 items of the most beautiful glass dating from the 13th century to the present day. At 3.30 pm, some of our number went on a pre-arranged, costumed guided tour of Oliver Cromwell’s House. Again, our guide was excellent. By this time, the weather was very warm and we were pleased to board our very comfortable coach for our return to Melton. We had a very enjoyable outing. Our visit coincided with the Ely Folk Festival which featured Morris dancing and parades throughout the day. It was a colourful spectacle to say the least and the icing on the cake.