Experts cast an eye back to Hereward the Wake’s time with dig at Ely Cathedral

Archaeologists working in the grounds of Ely Cathedral Archaeologists working in the grounds of Ely Cathedral

Monday, April 15, 2013
6:37 PM

ARCHAEOLOGISTS have been granted a fascinating glimpse back into the early days of Ely Cathedral thanks to excavations taking place within its grounds.

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Archaeologists working in the grounds of Ely CathedralArchaeologists working in the grounds of Ely Cathedral

In the last week, experts have finished excavating a small parcel of land adjacent to the Almonry restaurant and have unearthed evidence of Aetheldreda’s Gate, also known as the Gate of the Monks, which was demolished back in about 1840.

According to archaeologists from Pre-construct Archaeology, who have been working on the site, the stone wall they unearthed in their dig formed “the western side of the gate, which was built in two stages, perhaps dating from 1100c and 1150”.

A spokesman said: “We have found that this gate was built across a much earlier ditch, which had a strong bank inside it, protected by large posts set in holes.

“This was presumably the defence of the monastery before the building of the stone gate, and the pottery from it suggests a date in the 10th or 11th century, perhaps the time when Hereward held on to the Isle of Ely against the Norman invaders.”

The dig has now been completed but further assessment and cataloguing will have to take place before building work on the restaurant extension can take place.

The Almonry, which dates back to the 13th Century, adjoins the city’s historic cathedral and welcomes thousands of tourists and guests through its doors every year for tea, coffee and meals.

In a bid to capitalise on increasing trade, cathedral officials submitted an application to East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) last year to extend the Almonry’s kitchens to house a range of new equipment and facilities.

The restaurant used to be bordered by a series of sheds and fences which date back to alterations made to the building in the 1950s and 60s.

They sheds were demolished to allow the archaeological work to take place and, it is hoped, will eventually be home for the 8m x 6m kitchen and improved entrance path, which takes visitors from Market Street into the restaurant.

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