On 12th September, the Friends of Ely Cemetery held an open day at the cemetery. Although the grand event we had planned as part of National Cemetery Week earlier in the year had to be significantly reduced due to the ongoing pandemic, we were still able to welcome members of the public to the cemetery for tours and talks.
Many years ago, as is usual in old cemeteries, some gravestones were deemed unsafe and removed from their original positions in Ely cemetery. They were originally stacked around the edge of the site and remained there for some time before being moved again. It was presumed that they were buried somewhere in the cemetery but heir whereabouts have been unknown ever since. After extensive research, discussions with former council members and searches in the cemetery grounds, these lost headstones have begun to be uncovered once more. The FoEC hope to be able to repair and restore as many of these headstones as possible and research those former Ely residents whom they commemorate. Councillor and FoEC committee member Chris Phillips sums up our joy at locating these stones once more: "Forgotten for years, they are now remembered again".
Our next mini-biography is ready to read! This one features the full and interesting life of Susannah Elizabeth Woodroffe (1850-1919) who is buried in Ely cemetery alongside her son, Sergeant Major Thomas Woodroffe. Read all about her here!
Some early spring flowers are beginning to bloom in Ely cemetery. On the left is Winter Aconite, also known as the "Early Spring Bee Flower" (Eranthis hyemalis). This is a perennial plant which flowers from January to March, thrives in woodland, hedgerows and shady borders and is perfect for pollinators. On the right, is probably some Pulmonia, known as Common Lugwort. This plant likes deep shade, flowering from February to March and attracts the solitary, hairy-footed bee, one of the first bees to emerge in early spring. Both of these flowers can be seen in the shady, wooded area of the cemetery that runs along Beech Lane.
The first in our new series of mini biographies is now live!
When the Friends of Ely Cemetery was founded, one of its aims was to find out more about the people who have been laid to rest there. To this end, we intend to publish a series of mini biographies on our website, researched and written by our members, illuminating the lives of Ely residents past. The first of these has been prepared by Chris Phillips and looks at the fascinating life of John Newstead (1836-1913) whose gravestone intriguingly records his role as an "Indian Mutiny Veteran". Click here to read the full account!
The belfry in the tower of the twin chapels at Ely Cemetery is now home to fifty swift nesting boxes.
The cabinets are installed on five louvred sides, with the three remaining sides left ope to allow entry to the belfry and its single bell (which is not currently operational). With the City of Ely Council's endorsement, Richard Delahaye, the cemetery manager, and his staff embraced the swift project, carrying out nearly all of the installation work themselves. They have included a "tweeter" which will play attraction calls, hopefully encouraging young and mature swifts to pair and increase the colony by nesting in the belfry.
Swifts are migratory birds that travel from their wintering grounds in Africa, arriving in Britain at the end of April and leaving again at the end of July. These aerobatic birds can go months and even years entirely airborne, eating, sleeping and mating in flight. They pair for life, landing only to nest at the same site each year. The common swift will raise one family of two or three eggs during their three-month stay in the UK. Swifts are the fastest bird in level flight, reaching 69.3mph. The only bird to beat them is the peregrine falcon when it performs its famous diving 'stoop'. We hope to be seeing lots more of them at the cemetery in the coming months!
Many of you may have noticed that things are happening at the New Barns Avenue side of the cemetery. We have obtained permission to change the site to a burial area. We have erected a fence and the next stage will be to clear the block paving. It has been a long process as we have had to have an archaeological investigation carried out on the site. Nothing was found, however, which will enable the work to progress.