Ely so called from a Saxon word, elig, an eel, or helig, a willow, a cathedral town in that part of the fen country of Cambridgeshire called the Isle of Ely. Pop. about 6000.
Ely Cathedral. — About the year 673, Etheldreda, daughter of the king of East Anglia, and wife of Oswy, king of Northumberland, founded a monastery here, and took on herself the government of it. A new church was begun in 1081, which was converted into a cathedral, and the abbey erected into a see in 1109. The possessions of the abbey were divided between the bishop and the community. Among the celebrated names connected with Ely are abbot Thurstan, who defended the isle against William the Conqueror for seven years, and bishop Andrews. The bishops of Ely, like the bishops of Durham, formerly enjoyed a palatine jurisdiction, and appointed their own chief justice, etc., but this privilege was taken from them by the 6th and 7th William IV. The bishop of Ely is visitor to St. Peter's, St. John's, and Jesus colleges, Cambridge, of which last he also appoints the master. There is a grammar-school attached to the cathedral, founded by Henry VIII. The diocese of Ely belongs to the province of Canterbury, and embraces Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, and the archdeaconry of Sudbury. in Suffolk. The income of the bishop is £5500. The present (1890) incumbent is Alwyne Compton. The diocese has 26 deaneries and 172,263 church sittings. The total population within the territory of the diocese was, in 1861, 480,716. — Chambers, Encyclop. s.v.; Churchman's Calendar for 1868.