Oliver Cromwell's House
Built in the 13th century, the house in Ely known as Oliver Cromwell’s House, was where he and his family lived between 1636 to 1647. In 1990 it opened as a tourist attraction and visitors can take an audio tour around the house visiting the rooms and learning about the house itself, the Cromwell family, and the times in which they lived.
The building, which is known as Oliver Cromwell’s House, was built in the 13th century adjacent to St Mary's Church as the church vicarage, something it remained until 1986. The east wing - which is nearest to the churchyard - was part of the priest’s house. This wing was originally more than twice as long as it is today, but it continues to contain a number of rooms that are much the same as they were when used by Cromwell.
Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) came to prominence during the 1639 to 1653 Wars of the Three Kingdoms, initially as a senior commander in the Parliamentarian army and then as a politician. He was a leading advocate of the execution of Charles I in January 1649, and in fact, signed the King’s death warrant leading to the establishment of The Protectorate, he ruled as Lord Protector from December 1653 until his death in September 1658. Cromwell is widely regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of the British Isles.
The house in Ely was inherited by Oliver Cromwell from his uncle, in 1636 and Cromwell and his family, which consisted of his wife, Elizabeth, their six children, his mother, and two sisters, moved into the house where he collected tithes (taxes) and harvests in aid of the church. The Cromwell family lived in the house until 1647 when they moved to London.
In 1988 the house was bought by the City of Ely Council and was refurbished to show how it may have looked during the occupation of one of Ely’s most famous residents. It opened as a tourist attraction in 1990.
Visitors can follow an audio tour through the nine principal rooms. This starts from the gift shop when visitors pick up their audio guide.
From the shop, they proceed to the Parlour with its original 17th-century oak panelling. This is used to show a film that sets the scene and explains when the Cromwell family came to live in the house.
Proceeding on the tour visitors pass through the cold Larder with its marble shelves used to help keep the food cold.
This leads into the kitchen with its fire which was always kept alight. It was on this that meat would be roasted using a spit while bread would be baked in the oven at the side. In the centre of the room is the table with a selection of dishes displayed.
Walking up the stairs to the first floor is Mrs Cromwell’s Room which shows how the family would have spent their leisure.
Displayed here are also the portraits of the members of the Cromwell family.
Visitors then move on to the Civil War Room which contains a number of panels providing information relating to the Civil War (1642-1651) and displaying pieces of armour and weapons.
A large portrait of Oliver Cromwell hangs in this room, although the artist and background to this is not known, other than that it was given to the house in 1990.
On passing through the Civil War Room visitors come to the Study.
Within the house is the Haunted Bedroom which shows Cromwell’s deathbed scene, although he didn’t die here but at Whitehall on 3 September 1658 at the age of 59.
Below the bedroom on the ground floor is the Tithe Office, this is where Cromwell would oversee the locals who brought their produce in order to pay their taxes. The room contains some of its original 17th-century oak panelling, although the bay window dates from 1905. This room is used for a variety of events and functions and is available for hire.
The house provides a good introduction to Oliver Cromwell and also the events and way of life during the 17th century.