In 1638, on receipt of a large inheritance from his maternal uncle, Thomas Steward, Oliver Cromwell moved his family to Ely. His infamous rise to power is a celebrated part of English history. Although he died in 1658, his connection with this area lived on through his descendants. A large memorial situated to the left of the main door of St. Andrew's Church marks the grave of his Great-grand daughter Mary D'Aye, daughter of Elizabeth Cromwell and William Russell, Elizabeth being the daughter of Henry Cromwell, Lord Deputy of Ireland.
Olaudah Equiano - b.1745 d.1797
Perhaps the most famous marriage at St. Andrew's Church, Soham in Cambridgeshire was between Olaudah Equiano (The African) and Susannah Cullen (Spinster of the Parish of Soham) on the 7th April 1792. Slavery was still in force at the time of their marriage. Olaudah Equiano otherwise known as Gustavus Vassa was the African slave who gained his freedom and became an activist for the abolition of slavery in the 18th Century. He wrote his celebrated Autobiography - 'The Interesting Narrative of the life of Olaudah Equiano or Gustavus Vassa, the African 1789' which is still available to buy to this day.
Evidence to suggest that the couple took up residence in Soham comes from the fact that both of their children were born here. He had two daughters Anna Maria Vassa born on 16th October 1793 and was baptised in St. Andrew's Church on 30th January 1794. His second daughter, Joanna Vassa was born on 11th April 1795 and baptised in St. Andrew's Church on 29th April 1795.
Susannah was always thought to have died during Joanna's birth, however, records show that she died a year later, and is believed to be buried in Soham as 'Susanna Vassa, wife of Gustavus the African on 21st February 1796, aged 34'. Gustavus died on 31st March 1797, aged 52, his death occurred in London, but the whereabouts of his burial is unknown. Sadly Anna Maria died a few months later on 21st July 1797, aged just 4 Years and is buried in St. Andrew's Church, Chesterton, Cambridge where there is a commemorative plaque in her memory.
Joanna Vassa inherited a sizable estate from her father equivalent to £100,000 in todays money. She went on to marry the Reverend Henry Bromley and they ran a Congregational Chapel at Clavering near Saffron Walden in Essex, before moving to London in the middle of the nineteenth century. Joanna died in March 1857 at the age of 61 and is buried along with her husband in Abney Park Cemetery in Stoke Newington. It's not yet known whether Joanna had any children. The Slave Trade was finally abolished on British ships 10 years after the death of Olaudah Equiano, in 1807. It took a further forty years to see the abolition in the British colonies.