The Ely Museum Displays

Encounter the museum’s collection of fossils from marine dinosaurs, prehistoric tools and weapons, Roman pottery and Anglo Saxon jewellery. Watch the story of life in the fens and learn how eels were caught. Find out about the Ely and Littleport riots and savour the sights and sounds of prison life. Marvel at the prisoner’s graffiti and the original planking on the walls. Experience the Victorian living room and laundry room. Meet the land army girl and the local policeman and investigate the traumatic story of the Cambridgeshire Regiment’s imprisonment in World War II. Many items in the collection have been donated by local people and organizations.

Gallery 1: Formation of the Fens

The fossil record is sparse with the fens being wetlands, but during the Jurassic era the land was in fact seabed. Most of the fossils that are available at the museum are those sea creatures. Read more »

Gallery 2: First Inhabitants

The first evidence of people living in the area comes from the stone tools they left behind. While flint is not local to the Isle of Ely it was mined in great quantities in the chalk lands of Norfolk & Suffolk. Read more »

Gallery 3: Romans

In the end the Romans contained the fenland rather than conquering it. The people of Ely would undoubtedly have been involved in the great Iceni rebellion led by Boudica in 60 AD. Read more »

Gallery 4: Saxons

The arrival of the Vikings brought destruction to the Abbey made of wood and thatch, which was burnt to the ground in circa 870 AD. Read more »

Gallery 5: The Fens

It is in this room that you will get the clearest picture of the island of Ely. The three–dimensional map shows the contours of the land and you can see much of it was, and is, below sea level. Read more »

Gallery 6: The Cells

Even with the cells restored to their original state it is hard to imagine conditions as they really were: cold, damp and cruel. Food of any quality at all had to be paid for by the prisoners or their families. Read more »

Gallery 7: Victorian and Edwardian

For a small town Ely had a large number of public houses: 38 in 1851 rising to around 60 by the end of the century. Many of these brewed their own beer, many of them would have been ‘front parlour bars’. Read more »

Gallery 8: World War

Dedicated in part to the Cambridgeshire Regiment, members of which fought, suffered imprisonment and died in the Far East. Read more »