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Ely Cathedral

SPECIALIST TOUR - THE VICTORIAN CATHEDRAL: CIRCA 1871

Fridays 16 July, 6 August & 13 August; Wednesday 15 & Friday 24 September
11.30am, with lunch at 12.30pm

New for 2021! Join us on one of our 'Specialist Tours' to find out even more about the fascinating history of Ely Cathedral.

What's included: Ground floor admission to the Cathedral (no need to buy a Visitor ticket), a guided tour and a two course lunch in the Almonry Restaurant.

Tickets: £30 per person (for up to 6 people with a guide). Tickets must be pre-booked online up to the day before your visit, via the link at the bottom of this page.

Please meet your guide at the west end of the Nave, 5 minutes before your tour is due to start. Our guide will be wearing a face mask.

Friday 16 July - The Heraldry of Ely Cathedral

Heraldry is everywhere! - and by looking closely at the varied and colourful heraldry throughout the Cathedral we can throw light on its history and particularly on the interesting people who have been connected with it over the centuries. These include:

  • Early Bishops, many holding important roles of state.
  • Lifesize monuments to two Steward cousins of Oliver Cromwell plastered with numerous shields showing off their family connections
  • Small shields in the 19th century glass indicating their benefactors
  • The Tabula Eliensis, a great treasure depicting the Arms of the 40 knights billeted on the monks by William the Conqueror.

When you leave this tour, you will begin to see 'heraldry' in all sorts of places in your life!

Friday 6 August - Reformation and Reconciliation at Ely Cathedral

Follow in the footsteps of Richard Cox, who became one of the first canons in the New Foundation at Ely and who was close to the Royal Court of Henry VIII, where he was tutor to his son, the future Edward VI. Later, having been appointed by Elizabeth 1, Richard Cox was one of our 16th century Bishops, leading the reformation in Ely. Bishop Cox lived and worshipped at a time of great religious upheaval across Europe and in our own country. He occupied a senior role in England's national scene where, amongst others, he gave approval for the first Books of Common Prayer.

This tour will explore Cox and his world, his appointments and achievements, highlighting the impact of the English Reformation on both the person and the place, the fact of change and the need for reconciliation - themes that are as relevant today as then.

Towards the end of this tour you will visit the Bishop's House, but will mainly spend time discovering the Cathedral and Monastic precinct as they were in the sixteenth century. 

Friday 13 August - Ely Cathedral - In Print and on Screen

Ely Cathedral can be seen for miles across the flat fen landscape. Visitors, whether they approach by road, train, river, or simply on foot, are rewarded by the view of the two iconic towers.

Once inside the building you will learn about the history and purpose of this famous building and of some of the important people connected with it over the centuries. How many visitors, though, will be aware that Ely Cathedral can be adapted as a venue for fairs, exhibitions, banquets, conferences, concerts and more. In fact, over the past 15 years or so, Ely Cathedral has been a sought after venue for films, documentaries and tv series, hosting famous actors and personalities from the worlds of film and television. Aspects of Ely Cathedral also feature in several works of fiction for both children and adults.

In 2008, Ely Cathedral won the 'Creative East' Award for the best film and tv location, earning itself the nickname Elywood!

On this special themed tour our guide will:
accompany the visitor on a walk around the various internal locations used in some of the more well known film and tv productions.
show some 'behind the scenes' photographs and press clippings.
discuss fictional books in which Ely Cathedral is featured.
share some amusing anecdotes associated with various productions.

Wednesday 15 September - Encountering Ely Cathedral's Modern Art

Ely Cathedral is steeped in history and heritage, and the beauty of its medieval architecture can seem timeless. But the story of the Cathedral continues to the present day, with each new generation making its own mark.

Explore the cathedral from a fresh perspective on this tour which focuses on its 20th century art. Encounter modern works which often go unnoticed or unremarked, by artists including David Wynne and Peter Eugene Ball. Find out the fascinating stories behind the pieces - how and why they came into being, what they represent, and who were the artists who created them.

Friday 24 September - The Victorian Cathedral: Circa 1871

Visit Ely Cathedral 150 years ago. The major restoration programme and reorganisation of the building is virtually complete! Begun by Dean George Peacock when he was installed as Dean in 1839 and facilitated by the architect George Gilbert Scott from the time of his appointment in 1847, Ely's is the most comprehensive restoration of any British Cathedral attempted to date. The building was re-imagined from top to bottom, inside and out in an effort to repair the damage wrought by the Reformation and remove centuries of accretion that obscured a medieval masterpiece.

The tour is intended to be a kind of time travel back to 1871 in order to appreciate the Cathedral as it would have appeared to a visitor at that date. The guide will walk the modern visitor through the building highlighting the Victorian restoration and bringing to life the personalities of the 19th century individuals like the Dean, the clergy, the architect, the painters, the carpenters, the metal smiths who all contributed to creating Ely Cathedral as we know it today.

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The Crown wedding scene filmed at Ely Cathedral (Alex Bailey, Netflix) Enlarge

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The Nave Ceiling painted by Parry and Le Strange Enlarge

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Noli Me Tangere by David Wynne Enlarge

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The Way of Life by Jonathan Clarke Enlarge