Ely is a place steeped in history and blessed with a rich and diverse set of buildings which will be celebrated at this year’s Heritage Weekend Programme from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 September.
A series of events have been organised by the Tourist Information Office at Oliver Cromwell House to form part of East Cambridgeshire’s contribution to the national programme.
A number of homes and buildings will be opened specially for the weekend and special guided walks have also been organised to allow residents and visitors to learn more about Ely’s past.
Tracey Harding, Tourism & Town Centres Team Leader at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: "The National Heritage Weekend has grown in prestige since it first began in 1994. For nearly twenty years, it has provided an excellent opportunity for people to see many of our country’s fantastic buildings for free and visit some venues not usually open to the public. This year, the Tourist Information Office in Ely has worked with many of our fellow visitor attractions and the Ely Society to put together a special programme for the city.
"This means visitors and residents will be able to see and learn more about the history of our city and its strong heritage with the largest collection of monastic buildings in private dwelling in Europe. It is therefore fitting that we join in with the national Heritage weekend celebrations to allow many of our amazing buildings to be seen by the public. It should be a fantastic few days and I can’t wait to see some of the great buildings we are blessed to have in Ely."
The weekend starts on Friday 13 September with an Open Night where Ely’s visitor attractions are opening their doors, free of charge, so visitors can experience these atmospheric buildings after hours. These include:
- Oliver Cromwell’s House - 5pm to 8pm. People can visit this impressive historic house after dark and experience domestic life in the 17th Century in the re-created period rooms and even venture into the Haunted Bedroom if they dare. Visitors can complete their tour with a sample of Cromwell’s Cider and listen to the medieval tunes of Ely’s authentic Pied Piper. No pre-booking necessary.
- Ely Cathedral – 6.30pm to 8.30pm. One of the most magnificent examples of medieval architecture in Europe, Ely Cathedral is steeped in history, which dates back to the 11th century. The Cathedral will be offering Twilight Tours of either the historical West Tower or the world famous Octagon Tower. Places for the tours are limited to two tickets per person and must be pre-booked via our website at www.elycathedral.org
- The Stained Glass Museum – 6.30 pm to 8.30 pm. Housed in the South Triforum of Ely Cathedral it is the only museum dedicated to the art of stained glass in the country. View our many stunning stained glass window, which date from 1200 to the present day. No pre-booking necessary.
- Ely Museum – 5.00 pm to 8 pm. Take this free opportunity to visit the bright, friendly local history museum. Displays include original prison cells, fossils to touch and Roman remains. There will also be free children’s activities as well as the last chance to see ‘The Old Gaol’ special exhibition. No pre-booking necessary.
On Saturday 14 September there will be a series of Open Tours:
- Ely’s City Guided Walking Tour - 11.30 am. Visitors will be able to discover the history of the city via a guided walk around its splendid array of medieval paths and monastic buildings. People will be able to discover the origins of the Cathedral and the importance of trade in this former Isle of Eels. Departing from Ely Tourist Information Centre at Oliver Cromwell’s House. Pre-booking advisable. Contact 01353 662062, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ely Tales Guided Walk - 2.30 pm. Learn about the medieval city via the characters themselves. Hear how the Roundhead, Stone Mason and Brewer, to name but a few, shaped Ely’s history in this entertaining guided walk with costumed characters. The walk takes you around the city centre as well as the attractive riverside. Departing from Ely Tourist Information Centre at Oliver Cromwell’s House. Pre-booking advisable. Contact 01353 662062, email@example.com
- Oliver Cromwell’s House – 3.30 pm. Join a costumed guide around this historic house. Learn about Mrs Cromwell’s interest in cooking, see how the family spent their leisure time and hear the story of Oliver’s rise to power to become King in all but Name. Pre-booking advisable. Contact 01353 662062, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Ely Museum – 11am. Let a knowledgeable guide lead you around Ely Museum exploring the fascinating history of The Old Gaol. Discover fascinating local archaeology, learn about the Fenland landscape and spot Oliver Cromwell’s signature. Children can pick up one of the ‘Explorers’ Kits’ from the front desk. Pre-booking advisable. Contact 01353 666655, email@example.com
- Ely Cathedral – West Tower Tour - 10am. Ely Cathedral will be offering a tour of the famous West Tower at 10:00 am. At 215ft high, the West Tower offers one of the most spectacular views across the Cambridgeshire landscape. Places for the tour is limited to two tickets per person and must be pre-booked via our website at www.elycathedral.org
- * The Stained Glass Museum – 11am and 2pm. Find out more about the art of making stained glass and enjoy free guided tours of Ely’s historic collection of stained glass windows at The Stained Glass Museum. Pre-booking essential. Contact 01353 660347, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Guided tour of the Old Palace – 10am to 4pm, departing every 40 mins. The splendid Bishop’s Palace dates from the 15th century and is now owned and managed by Kings School Ely. There will be guided walks and an illustrated talk in the Lecture Theatre by Francis Young, author of "A History of the Bishop’s Palace at Ely", which will be repeated several times during the day as well as an exhibition for the Long Gallery entitled "Prisoners in the Palace". This tells the story of the Catholics imprisoned in the Palace during the reign of Elizabeth I. Three simultaneous tours will depart from the main entrance hall. Pre-booking advisable. Contact 01353 660700, www.kingsely.org
Finally on Sunday 15th September, there will be a series of Open Houses:
- Silver Street Cottages – 11 am to 4 pm. Take the chance to visit these medieval cottages dating from the 15th Century and view the 16th century first floor wall paintings. Pre-booking via the Tourist Information Centre is essential. Contact 01353 662062, email@example.com
- St Peter’s Church – 11 am to 4 pm. Built in 1890 as a Mission Church for the riverside area, this is the chance to see the fine wooden screen and rood loft decorated in red, green and gold which was designed by Sir Ninian Comper. Pre-booking essential. Contact 01353 667672
- Old Porta – Tours, curtsey of Kings School and Ely Society, will run at 2.00, 2.30, 3.00 and 3.30 pm. Ely Porta was once the main entrance to Ely monastery and through it passed travellers, pilgrims, royalty and local people selling their wares to the monastery. Today it houses the Kings’ School Library and visitors can marvel at the architecture of the building and its impressive collection of books. Pre-booking essential. Contact 01353 662062, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Prior Craudren’s Chapel – 10am to 4pm. Rarely open to the public so don’t miss the chance to visit this impressive 14th Century chapel with its wall paintings and medieval tiled floor. Entry is free but places for the tours are limited and must be pre-booked via www.elycathedral.org
For more information please visit www.visitely.org.uk or call 01353 662062