Cromwell's House, Ely
The house where Oliver Cromwell and his family lived from 1636-1647 is an attractive half-timbered building that once served as the vicarage for nearby St Mary's Church. The house was built in the 13th century, and portions of that first structure survive in the east wing of the current house.
The building served as a pub for several years - aptly named "The
Cromwell's Arms", but it is now refurbished in Stuart style, and
audio-visual displays provide insight into the career and times of
Cromwell. Part of the exhibition is aimed at helping visitors to decide
for themselves whether Cromwell was a hero or a villain.
The house is now the only Cromwell residence to survive other than Hampton Court Palace in London. You enter into a parlour area, with dark pine panelling. One area of panelling hides a section of medieval wall painting, which can be viewed on request. From the parlour you pass into the kitchen, then upstairs to the Portrait Room, where you can see a portrait of Cromwell in the style of Sir of Peter Lely, the court painter to Charles I.
There is a Civil War exhibition which tells the story of how Cromwell rose to become a military leader during the Civil War, and eventually a political leader after Charles I's execution. Then there is the Haunted Bedroom, said to be haunted by ghosts. Appropriately enough, this area has an exhibition on Cromwell's death and its aftermath. After the Haunted Bedroom you descend once more, past a 13th century doorway, to the Tithe Office, which was Oliver Cromwell's office while he lived here. The Office features a large 15th century window,though the room itself dates 'only' to 1615.
The house is set up to provide opportunities for families to learn about Cromwell's life and times. Children can dress up in period costumes, enjoy playing with 17th century toys, and try their hands at medieval handwriting. There is also a children's trail around the house, with clues and riddles to solve. This is one historic house where visitors are encouraged to handle the things they see, to pick things up and examine them, which is quite refreshing to see.
Downstairs in Cromwell's House is the Ely Tourist Information Centre, who provide a Ghost Walk of Ely in addition to the usual leaflets and travel help.
The table set for dinner
The kitchen fireplace
'Cromwell' at work writing