The diocese of Ely, formed out of the huge diocese of Lincoln, was established in 1109 in St Etheldreda's Isle of Ely, and the ancient Abbey became Ely Cathedral Priory. Covering at first only the Isle and Cambridgeshire, it grew immensely in 1837 with the addition of Huntingdonshire, Bedfordshire and West Suffolk. The latter two counties left the diocese in 1914, but a substantial part of West Norfolk was added soon after.
Until the nineteenth century Ely was one of the wealthiest dioceses in the country, and in every century there were notable appointments to the bishopric. Few of the bishops were promoted elsewhere; for most it was the culmination of their career, and many had made significant contributions, both to national life and to scholarship, before their preferment to Ely. They included men of the calibre of Lancelot Andrewes in the seventeenth century, the renowned book-collector John Moore in the eighteenth, and James Russell Woodford, founder of the Theological College, in the nineteenth.
In essays each spanning about a century, experts in the field explore the lives and careers of its bishops, and their families and social contacts, examine their impact on the diocese, and their role in the wider Church in England. Other chapters consider such areas as the estates, the residences, the works of art and the library and archives. Overall, they chart the remarkable development over nine hundred years of one of the smallest, richest and youngest of the traditional dioceses of England.
Peter Meadows is manuscript librarian in Cambridge University Library.
Contributors: Nicholas Karn, Nicholas Vincent, Benjamin Thompson, Peter Meadows, Felicity Heal, Ian Atherton, Evelyn Lord, Frances Knight, Brian Watchorn