The mystic Isle Of Ely: low-lying, surrounded by marshland and swamp for much of the year, isolated and lonely beneath wild unruly skies. Where a dark breed of reticent, suspicious and self-reliant men eked a living, wild fowling or catching the eels that gave Ely its name.
Here the fiercely independent Etheldreda set up her monastery. Here the Danes came in the dead of night and sacked and destroyed the building. And Bishop Ethelwold defiantly rebuilt on a still grander scale. Stone was brought in by flat-bottomed boats and hauled up onto the riverside wharf.
When the rest of Albion's Isle fell to the invading Normans these men rose up and, under the command of the wily Hereward, fought back with daring raids and treacherous ambushes. The great Norman army was lured to destruction in the swampy darkness.
During the Middle Ages people travelled to St Audrey's Fair, tinkers, horse-traders, minstrels and ne'er-do-wells, to buy cheap trinkets and lace. The word tawdry, incidentally, derives from Saint Audrey.
In times past huge crowds gathered on the green in front of the cathedral to watch hangings and men burnt at the stake for heresy.
On the quayside foreign tongues could be heard as trading vessels from the Low Countries brought goods to the town and later as Dutch engineers came to drain the fens, much to the displeasure of the wildfowlers and reed gatherers who made their living from the wetlands.
In the nineteenth century displaced and starving agricultural workers gathered in the riverside pubs and planned the riots which took place in Ely and Littleport. A few weeks later in the Ely Courts men were condemned to death for their part in the unrest. Others were forced to join the chain gangs in Van Dieman's Land.
During The Great War many men from the town marched away proudly only to perish in senseless battles in foreign lands. Their wives and children were left to mourn.
"When you look back tha's a funny old world and I sometimes can't make out how we got to where we're at"