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Photograph by Bob Cox-Wrightson

Ely Place, Holborn

An enclave of Cambridgeshire in the heart of London.

There is a small corner of London which has ancient Cambridgeshire connections. It has a pub called “Ye Olde Mitre”, built in 1546 by the Bishop of Ely, and a church dedicated to St Etheldreda. This is Ely Place, in Holborn, which is private street, managed by its own commissioners and beadles.

St Etheldreda’s Church was the chapel of the Bishops of Ely from about 1250 to 1570. It is the oldest Catholic church in England and one of only two remaining buildings in London from the reign of Edward I – the other being Westminster Abbey.

Ye Olde Mitre, Ely Place

Photograph by Bob Cox-Wrightson

The whole estate was administered by the See of Ely, and the gardens of St Etheldreda’s were once full of saffron and strawberries. They are mentioned in Shakespeare’s Richard III, when the Duke of Gloucester says to the Bishop of Ely –

“When I was last in Holborn,
I saw good strawberries in your garden there
I do beseech you send for some of them.”

Ye Olde Mitre was remodelled in the 1930’s, and until the 1960s its  licence was issued by the Cambridge authorities. The pub contains a remnant of a cherry tree, that Queen Elizabeth once danced around with Sir Christopher Hatton.

St Etheldreda's Church, Ely Place

Photograph by Bob Cox-Wrightson

Until the late 1960s, the beadles of Ely Place would announce the time and weather on an hourly basis from 7am until 10pm, and the pub contains examples of letters addressed to Ely Place, Holborn, Cambridgeshire.


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