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28 October 2014

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Oliver Cromwell's House in Ely
Oliver Cromwell's House

A Tourist in your own Town - Ely

Jan Reynolds
No visit to Ely is complete without a look round the cathedral, but despite its omnipresent, imposing appearance, there's much more to discover in this busy town...

Listen to Jan explore Ely:
audio Tourist in your own Town: Ely >
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Ely Cathedral
Ely Cathedral

The magnificent Cathedral at Ely is a stunning landmark which can be seen for miles around. The Octagon lantern is renowned and the cathedral is considered one of the finest in Europe - so, not surprisingly, this is a destination for coach tours.

Ely has grown rapidly in the past few years but it remains traditional, serving the surrounding villages with an open market twice a week. It also offers more places for afternoon tea than most towns of its size in Britain - nine cafes to date – and several of them in extraordinary and unusual settings!

Whether you amble through the streets at the top of the hill or saunter down to the riverside, the pace is leisurely.

Oliver Cromwell

The riverside at Ely
The riverside at Ely

Near to the Cathedral, the former home of Oliver Cromwell is now a popular tourist attraction for families, with costumes, hats and helmets to try on, and video relays telling the story of fen drainage in the 17th century.

The engineering expertise of Cornelius Vermuyden transformed the wetlands, which swarmed with fish and fowl, into prime agricultural land, making some people wealthy but at the expense of many poorer people who relied on the Fens for their livelihood.  The drainage was highly controversial but by an extraordinary quirk, as the peat has dried and blown away, some of the richest archaeological sites in Britain have been revealed, showing that far from being a backwater in the distant past, the Fens were teaming with people.

Find out more about Oliver Cromwell's House:
Oliver Cromwell's House >
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Ely Museum

Ely Museum
Ely Museum

The solid-looking stone building that once served as the Bishop's gaol is also a centre for history and heritage and is now the Ely Museum. Upstairs, the old cells contain rather grim tableaux of condemned prisoners and debtors but the lower gallery is less frightening with its displays representing the Isle of Ely from earliest times. You can travel back in time to the Romans and Saxons - and learn about the break-neck fen skating of the past!

The Isle of Ely and the surrounding fenland has a unique and proud history with its claim to have been the last stand of the population against the invading Normans.  Visit this little museum and you can discover its story.

Find out more about Ely Museum:
Ely Museum >
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Find out more about 'Tourist In Your Own Town' with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire:
A Tourist in your own Town! >
last updated: 30/08/06
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