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Ely ( ) is a cathedral city in Cambridgeshire, Englandmarker. It is 14 miles (23 km) north-northeast of Cambridgemarker.

Ely has been informally accounted a city by virtue of being the seat of a diocese. Its status was confirmed by Royal Charter in 1974, when the parish council of the single civil parish that makes up Ely was formed during a reorganisation of local government. With a population of 15,102 in 2009 , Ely is the third smallest city in England after Wellsmarker in Somersetmarker and the City of Londonmarker, and the sixth smallest in the United Kingdom with St David'smarker, Bangormarker, and Armaghmarker also smaller.


It is said that Ely derives its name from 'eel' and '-y' or '-ey' meaning island. This may be true, due to the position of Ely, an island in low-lying fens that were historically very marshy and rich in eels. It has even been claimed that, during the 11th century, monks of the town used eels as currency to pay their taxes.

The city's origins lay in the foundation of an abbey in 673 AD , a mile (1.6 km) to the north of the village of Cratendune on the Isle of Elymarker, under the protection of St Ethelreda, daughter of King Anna. The abbey was destroyed in 870 by Danish invaders and not rebuilt for over a hundred years. The site was one of the last holdouts in England to the rule of William I, its leader Hereward the Wake remaining independent until his surrender in 1071. Following William's defeat of Hereward he commissioned the construction of Ely Castlemarker. It was demolished some time in the 13th century.

Oliver Cromwell lived in Ely for several years after inheriting the position of local tax collector in 1636. His former home dates to the 16th century and is now used by the Tourist Information Office, as well as being a museum with rooms displayed as they would have been in Cromwell's time. Cromwell was one of the Governors of the Thomas Parson's Charity,which dates back to the sixteenth century and was granted a Royal Charter by Charles I. The Original Charter and copies of the Minute Book containing Oliver Cromwell's handwriting and signature have recently been loaned to the Ely Museum. The Charity still provides Grants and Housing to deserving local applicants.

Historical documents relating to Ely, including Church of England parish registers, court records, maps and photographs, are held by Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies at the County Record Office in Cambridge.

Modern times

Ely retains many historic buildings and winding shopping streets. There is a market on Thursday and Saturday each week. The city is on the River Great Ousemarker and was a significant port until the 18th century, when the Fens were drained and Ely ceased to be an island.

The river is a popular boating area with a large marina. The University of Cambridgemarker rowing team has a boathouse on the bank of the river and trains there for the annual Boat Race against the University of Oxfordmarker. The 1944 Boat Race was raced on the River Great Ouse near Ely, the only time it has not been held on the River Thames, when it was won by Oxford.

Ely Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity is known as the "Ship of the Fens", a name inspired by the distant views of its towers that dominate the low-lying wetlands called The Fensmarker. The diocese of Ely was created in 1108 out of the see of Lincolnmarker, and a year later the bishopric of Ely was founded. The cathedral was started by William I in 1083, suffered the collapse in 1322 of the main tower, which was rebuilt as an octagon, and was completed in 1351. The city took part in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381.

Ely is the nearest cathedral city to Cambridgemarker, which lies within the same diocese but does not have its own cathedral. The diocese covers 1507 square miles (3900 square kilometres) and holds 610,000 people (1995) and 341 churches. It includes the county of Cambridgeshire, except for Peterborough and three parishes in the south which are in the diocese of Chelmsfordmarker; the western part of Norfolk, a few parishes in Peterboroughmarker and Essex and one in Bedfordshire.


Ely railway stationmarker, situated on the Fen Line, is a major train hub with direct trains to Cambridgemarker and Londonmarker, as well as much of the rest of East Angliamarker, The Midlandsmarker and The North-West.

The main A10 road skirts the city to the west on its way from Londonmarker to King's Lynnmarker.

Proposed southern bypass

A proposal for an Ely southern bypass of the A142 is included in the major schemes of the Cambridgeshire Local Transport Plan. The proposed route would be a single, two lane carriageway and would include 1.9km of new road construction between new roundabout junctions on Stuntney Causeway and Angel Drove. It is intended to reduce congestion in Ely and to avoid the low bridge on the Ely to Kings Lynn railway line, which has the third highest vehicle strike rate in the country. The scheme has an estimated cost of £15m and an estimated construction date of 2009 - 2011. However, as of July 2009 the proposal is still in the planning stage. A transport model for Ely which assessed the impact of the proposed bypass was released in June 2009.


Ely City F.C.marker is a football club that was established in 1885 and joined the Eastern Counties Football League in 1960. In the 1997-98 season, they reached the 3rd round of the FA Vase. For the 2007-08 season, they are members of the Eastern Counties Football League Division One. They play at the Unwin Sports Ground.

Twin cities and towns


Schools in Ely include The King's School, Elymarker and Ely Community Collegemarker.

People from Ely

The former RAF hospital based in Ely meant that many children of serving RAF parents were born in the city, such as rugby union player and Rugby World Cup 2003 winning manager with England national rugby union team, Sir Clive Woodward, Australian émigrée actor Guy Pearce, and actor Simon MacCorkindale. Autogyro world record holder Ken Wallis was also born in Ely. Other notable people from Ely include The Sisters of Mercy singer Andrew Eldritch, journalist Chris Hunt, and The Dark Knight/Blood Diamond executive producer Kevin De La Noy. Folk singer Boo Hewerdine and crime writer Jim Kelly both currently live in the city.

See also


Image:UK Ely.jpg|Signpost in ElyImage:Ely_PG.jpg|Ely Cathedralmarker and Palace GreenFile:Ely Winter.jpg|Ely on a winter morningFile:Ely The Gallery.jpg|The Cathedral viewed from The GalleryFile:Ely Market Place.jpg|The Market Place, ElyFile:Ely French market.jpg|Lots of produce at the French marketFile:Ely French market 2.jpg|A stall on the French marketFile:Eel day parade.jpg| Eel day parade down Fore HillFile:Ely Oliver Cromwell House.jpg|Oliver Cromwell's house, tourist information and museum.File:Ely quay 1.jpg|The river quayside (Quai D'Orsay)File:Ely quay 2.jpg|The River Great Ouse, ElyFile:Ely quay 4.jpg|The quayside and river Great OuseFile:Ely frog.jpg|Canal boats moored on the riverFile:View from St Mary's churchyard.jpg|View from St Mary's churchyardImage:Meadows_ely.jpg|Ely Cathedral seen from the parkFile:The Gallery and 14th century Porta at dusk.jpg|The Gallery and 14th century Porta at duskImage:Cutter inn ely.jpg|Looking back towards the riverside Cutter Inn


  1. "Eels could be slipping away from city’s river", Ely Standard Web Editorial, July 13, 2007. Accessed December 12, 2007.
  2. Diocese of Ely website
  3. British History Online
  4. British Civil Wars, Commonwealth and Protectorate 1638-1660
  5. Ely Cathedral website

External links

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