8 March 2021

Ely Cathedral bullet scars - can you help?

The west wall of Ely Cathedral. Image: Ely Cathedral Guides' Research Group.

Can anyone please help?

Ely Cathedral Guides' Research Group has got in touch about some pockmarks on the external west wall of the cathedral's Lady Chapel, possibly caused by ECW musket fire ...

A member of the group writes:

'The marks (see pics) don’t look like natural deterioration, but rather the consequence of projectiles and impact. They’re positioned within the arcading so it looks like they could be the result of target practice. Also the holes, at eye level, are of a standard size and shape suggesting they could come from musket fire. There is nothing in the literature on the Cathedral so, at the moment, these theories are based on observation.

'We do know that on 10th January, 1644, Cromwell's soldiers ransacked the vestry and cloisters, and, discovering the organ pipes, marched through the street with them making a loud noise and the next day they returned and smashed the windows - however there is nothing about firing muskets.

'The nineteenth century Clerk of the Works, John Bacon, referred to bullets being found in the West Doors. He wrote "The large original doors were taken down, overhauled, lead bullets taken out" - so it’s possible that more than one area of the Cathedral came under fire.'

I've searched myself and made a few enquiries and can't shed any light on the pockmarks.

Does anyone know the origin of these marks at Ely, and whether they are in fact attributable to ECW action (see pics below)?

Related links:

Guest blog: New techniques for understanding 17th century siege warfare (Amanda Wynne)
Churches still bearing battle scars


  1. We ,3 of us attended midnight mass 2022 ,I am in wheelchair ,where we where seated in center of cathedral ,we could easily see musket ball inpacts on walls inside approx 4/5ft from ground

  2. In center of cathedral we have seen musket ball inpacts on cathedral walls ,inside center ,when attending midnight mass 2022, the evidence is there approx 4ft up from floor

  3. All the impact marks appear to be at what would have been the head height of whatever religious statues were situated on the plinths within the arcading, so it looks like a systematic beheading - perhaps typical of Cromwellian iconoclasm?

  4. Two further examples of musket ball impacts survive above a larger statue plinth on the northern exterior of the Cathedral - again at what would have been the statue's head height.