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Hands On History: Cambridgeshire's Norman invasion
Ely Cathedral
The Normans began work on Ely's present cathedral in the 11th Century

Ely is heading back a thousand years to the dark days of the Norman invasion.

The Isle of Ely was at the centre of the Saxons' last stand, but is more famous these days for its cathedral, which was started by the Normans.

Ely's museums, cathedral and library are organising events themed around the Normans and Saxons this August.

The events coincide with a new three part BBC television series about the Normans, which starts on BBC Two on Wednesday, 4 August 2010.

Ely Cathedral, Cambridge and the Fens all feature in the programme, presented by Professor Robert Bartlett.

He traces the story of the Normans. They were originally Vikings, or 'Norsemen', who settled in northern France and then spread out across Europe.

Originally pagan, they went on to build some of the most astonishing churches in Europe.

Their greatest achievement was probably the conquest of England and the overthrow of the Anglo-Saxon hierarchy.

A small number of Saxons continued to resist the Norman occupation from the Isle of Ely until 1071, when their leader Hereward the Wake was betrayed by the abbey's monks.

As part of the BBC's Norman season, take a look at what's happening in Ely and where you can visit Norman buildings in Cambridgeshire:

Family friendly Norman Ely

Oliver Cromwell Museum

• Compare the Saxon battle scenes in the Bayeux Tapestry with those of the English Civil War.

Find out more by ringing 01353 662062.

Ely library

• From Saturday, 7 August to Saturday, 14 August - enjoy a Heroic Hereward the Wake Colouring Competition.

• Friday, 13 August - make your own Norman shield and become a soldier in William the Conqueror's army.

• Novels about Hereward the Wake, usually held in the Cambridgeshire Collection, will be on display.

Ring 0345 045 5225 for more information.

Eric the Norman
Eric the Norman will guide children through the BBC's Norman season

Ely Museum

• Tuesday, 10 August - children aged five to 15 can discover the story of Hereward the Wake.

• Thursday, 12 August - a Norman warrior is visiting the museum.

For more details on these sessions, ring 01353 666655.

Stained Glass Museum

• Tuesday, 10 August - visitors can create their own coat of arms out of recycled materials based on heraldic panels in the gallery.

For more information, ring 01353 660347.

Ely Cathedral

• Wednesday, 11 August - build a Norman cathedral during a free drop-in session between 10.00am and noon, and then explore the real thing

• Saturday, 14 August - a Norman Living History Fair will be held on Cross Green between 2.00 and 4.00 in the afternoon. There will be Saxon and Norman re-enactors, weapons and warfare with Hereward, Theophilus the monk who will explain how stained glass is made, while Hereward the Wake's last stand will be relived in the Lady Chapel.

Cambridgeshire's Norman heritage

Crowland Abbey

Built in the early 12th century after a fire destroyed the original abbey, it was rebuilt once again after further fire in 1170. The partially restored ruins are hauntingly beautiful.

Check the website for details:

Isleham Priory Church

The best example in England of a small Norman Benedictine priory church. It has survived in a surprisingly unaltered state, despite later being converted into a barn.

Please check website for entry details:

Peterborough Cathedral

The abbey was built between 1118 and 1238, after a fire destroyed the previous building. The decorated wooden ceiling, the only original to survive in England, was completed between 1230 and 1250.

Entrance is free, but check the website for opening times:

St Helen's Church, Folksworth

The church was first built around 1150, the south transept around 1300. It was rebuilt in Neo-Norman style with a new north vestry in 1850.

Find out more on the website:

Ely Cathedral
Most surviving Norman buildings today are churches and cathedrals

St John the Baptist, Upton

A 12th century Norman church, with a north aisle rebuilt in the 1600s and the chancel restored in the 1800s.

Entrance is free, but check website for opening times:

St Kyneburgha, Castor

A church with Roman, Saxon and Norman stonework visible, a Norman Tower and medieval Angel Roof. A carved stone in the priest's door in the chancel says the church was dedicated in April 1124.

Opening times are on the website:

The Round Church (The Church of the Holy Sepulchre), Cambridge

One of four round Norman churches and built in 1130. The unusual shape was influenced by the round Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem built by the Roman Emperor Constantine.

Opening hours and charges are listed on the website:

The Manor, Hemmingford Grey

Built in the 1130s, The Manor is one of the oldest continuously inhabited houses in Britain. Much of the original house remains virtually intact in spite of various changes over nine hundred years.

For opening times and charges go to the website:

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