Cromwell’s House in Ely re-opened by Earl Spencer - and guest get a short history lesson in the Lord Protector ‘hero or villain’
- Credit: Archant
He is the author of a book about the man and as the current mayor of Ely, it was fitting that Mike Rouse was called upon to play a role in the re-opening of Oliver Cromwell’s House following refurbishment.
Cllr Rouse told guests – including Earl Spencer who performed the official opening and who has himself become a prolific author from the Cromwell era - of the city’s long association with the one time Lord Protector.
He also explained how 30 years ago, when chairman of the district council, he helped to put together the case for converting the former vicarage into what is now Cromwell’s House.
“I remember meeting with the chief executive and the bishop as the future of this building was uncertain,” he said.
“It had ceased to be the vicarage and was vacant. I was determined that it should be acquired for the community as part of Ely’s heritage. And that indeed was what happened with East Cambridgeshire Council refurbishing the house as the new tourism information centre and visitor attraction.”
Cllr Rouse said a year ago responsibility for the house was moved – along with tourism - to the City of Ely Council “which I believe is the right and proper thing. “Tourism and visitor income is essential for the economic well being of Ely.”
He said: “Ely must continue to improve its heritage offer to complement the cathedral, one of the greatest glories of the world.”
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Cllr Rouse told guests of the history of the house “a home which changed Cromwell’s fortunes – the threshold over which he and his wife Joan brought their children. These were Robert, Oliver, Bridget, Richard, Henry and Elizabeth to be joined by Mary and Frances born here.”
Cllr Rouse said it was remarkable that visitors could enjoy visiting “the rooms where they ate, where they slept and where the children played”.
The refurbishment concentrates on one of the main rooms which has been given a substantial make over to bring home to visitors the life and times of Cromwell.
The money for the refurbishment was made possible by funding from the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development through the Cambridgeshire Fens LEADER programme, co-ordinated by Cambridgeshire ACRE.
“This building has a unique place in our country’s history” he said and the staff who work there have “incredible enthusiasm” for bringing that story to as many people as possible.
Earl Spencer, now a successful novelist, said whether people regarded Cromwell as a hero or villain there was no doubt he was a “colossus of a figure” who had impacted greatly on society. He was “a driven, clever, persuasive man and led one of the great stand out moments in British history”.
Tracey Harding said the success of Cromwell’s House was partly because it brought in visitors of all ages and that was important for its viability and future.