Ely – Ely Cathedral

I had a little time spare in Ely and so I decided I should spent all of that in the city’s beautiful Cathedral. Work started on the current building in the late eleventh century, although there was a church here before that date.

The Cathedral fell into a state of disrepair in the sixteenth century and there was talk during the Commonwealth period of entirely demolishing it. The Cathedral was repaired in the late seventeenth century and there were substantial repairs which took place in the mid nineteenth century.

It’s possible to just enter at the end of the nave and take a look at the interior for free, but it’s not possible to go any further without paying. I was aware though that visitors are able to pay and get free entry for the rest of the year, which is what I decided to do.

I do rather feel though that the Cathedral has gone just a little beyond what is reasonable with its attempts to upsell to visitors. It was plainly visible during the short time I was at the counter that visitors were uncomfortable with it, and if Greggs tried that on me I’d be e-mailing them…

So visitors currently ask for a ticket, and are then upsold to a tower tour, are then upsold to the stained glass museum and then upsold to a luxury package which includes a hot drink in the cafe. There’s then an upsell to a basic guidebook and then a more advanced guidebook, with visitors being given nothing for free such as a basic leaflet.

When visitors leave the Cathedral they’re also forced to go through the shop and there are some rather unnecessary displays aimed at children. I wonder whether the management should be told they’re not running Alton Towers and I did half expect to find a Starbucks half way down the nave, but they have managed to draw the line there. Although I’d consider accepting a Greggs in the nave if they felt it would be financially advantageous…

The Cathedral’s charging policy has ensured that the building was quiet inside, and the number of visitors on a warm summer’s day seemed rather low to me.

A view back towards the entrance. I need to go back to using my proper camera either the Cathedral is leaning or my phone was tilted slightly…

In 1322 some enthusiastic civil engineers were busying themselves constructing a new Lady Chapel and it’s thought that this work caused the central Cathedral tower to collapse. This was far from ideal and the engineers thought they’d better stop and deal with the minor problem that the building had a large hole in it and the choirs were badly damaged.

So, some philosophers and architects got together to design a replacement structure and this is call the Octagon, or Lantern, Tower. It’s beautiful and is now one of the building’s architectural highlights. The decision not to replace the tower was partly for structural reasons, but it has also given it an individual character.

The window of the Lady Chapel, which was sadly seriously damaged during the Reformation when a large number of sculptures were destroyed. Work on the Lady Chapel had started in 1321, was suspended when the civil engineers caused the collapse of the central tower, but the work was eventually finished in 1349.

One of the hundreds of vandalised sculptures from the Reformation.

The other end of the Lady Chapel, which was used as a parish church for some centuries following the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Its reconnection with the Cathedral is relatively recent, from 1938.

The choir stalls.

The transept has some considerable height to it.

And the other side.

The beautiful painted roof of the nave and although the paintwork dates from the nineteenth century Victorian restoration, the wood under it dates from the fourteenth century.

A sculpture designed by David Wynne which aims to portray the moment that Mary Magdalene recognised Jesus.

This is the tomb of Bishop Thomas Goodrich, the Bishop of Ely from 1534 until 1544. He was granted the role by Thomas Cranmer and had previously been a Royal Chaplain. He decided he liked the Reformation and in 1541 he ordered the destruction of the sculptures in the Lady Chapel, the smashing of much of the stained glass windows and the removal of shrines. He later became the Lord High Chancellor and when the Monarch once again went Catholic he decided that he would shift his most sincerely held religious views again…..

An interesting little memorial.

The Cathedral’s time capsule placed there to mark the Millennium.

The rather grand entrance to Bishop Alcock’s Chantry Chapel, work on which was started in 1488. The Bishop founded Jesus College at Cambridge University and there were initially plans for the chapel to be larger.

I liked this because of the animal (I have no idea what it is) that was looking at me…. It’s the tomb and canopy of the Tiptoft Family and probably dates to the fourteenth or fifteenth century.

The Cathedral’s pulpit and when I was there someone came to offer prayers from it every hour. I thought that was a nice touch, nothing too excessive, but just a reminder that the building is a working and active religious institution.

The tomb of Henry Caesar, who was the Dean of Ely between 1614 and 1636. Money which he left to fund scholarships to Jesus College at Cambridge University and to offer extra pay to Minor Canons and Lay Clerks was borrowed by King Charles I and never repaid.

The rather colourful tomb of Robert Steward, a close relation of Oliver Cromwell, which dates to the late sixteenth century.

I have read books by Charles Merivale, but I didn’t realise that he was also the Dean of the Cathedral. He was one of the people responsible for planning the first Oxford versus Cambridge boat race, which first took place in 1829 and Merivale rowed for the Cambridge University team.

The bell from St. Nicholas Church in Feltwell which fell in 1898 and which was given to the Cathedral in 1976. The bell was originally cast in the fifteenth century.

One of the Cathedral aisles.

I thought that this was interesting, it’s the original floor tiling which led from the North Choir Aisle to the Lady Chapel. The tiling dates to the early fourteenth century and was intended to form the design of a mosaic.

My visit wasn’t as long as I’d like, but since I go back for free for another twelve months, I shall be back, and will go on a tower tour when the weather is favourable.