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A young Oliver Cromwell sits at a replica of a desk from the early 1600s period in which he attended school in the building that is now a museum to Cromwell, one of the few commoners to become leader of England.
A young Oliver Cromwell sits at a replica of a desk from the early 1600s period in which he attended school in the building that is now a museum to Cromwell, one of the few commoners to become leader of England. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
A young Oliver Cromwell sits at a replica of a desk from the early 1600s period in which he attended school in the building that is now a museum to Cromwell, one of the few commoners to become leader of England.
A young Oliver Cromwell sits at a replica of a desk from the early 1600s period in which he attended school in the building that is now a museum to Cromwell, one of the few commoners to become leader of England. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
The Oliver Cromwell museum in Huntingdon is in the English leader’s former school. The building originally was much larger, as it was built as a hospital in 1160, then partially taken down, with this remaining part turned into a school in 1565.
The Oliver Cromwell museum in Huntingdon is in the English leader’s former school. The building originally was much larger, as it was built as a hospital in 1160, then partially taken down, with this remaining part turned into a school in 1565. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

Oliver Cromwell, a commoner, became one of the few nonroyals to rule England and was even offered the king’s crown.

He is remembered in his hometown of Huntingdon, a few miles south of RAF Alconbury, with a small, centrally situated museum.

Located on the town’s High Street, the Cromwell Museum gives visitors a look at the man and his rise to lead England after its mid-17th- century civil war.

“He was one of only two or three commoners to rule this country,” said museum assistant Alan Butler. “He ruled the country as lord protector.”

Cromwell’s rise to power included an offer for him to become king in 1657.

“He was offered the crown but refused it,” Butler said. “He took a few weeks to refuse, though.”

Cromwell attended school in the building that now serves as the museum. He was born just down the street.

While the museum is about the size of a large, two-car garage, its numerous displays are well laid out and offer visitors a chance to see a bit of Cromwell’s — and the English Civil War’s — history up close.

Cromwell led parliamentary troops (those opposed to the king) in many English civil war battles, including a decisive victory at Naseby, about 20 miles west of RAF Molesworth.

Portraits of Cromwell and various family members are placed along the museum’s walls, and display cases filled with various items are packed tightly throughout.

One display case holds Cromwell’s felt hat, another his gunpowder flask. One larger display shows the dress and weaponry of a civil war soldier, including a short pike.

A full-sized, 16-foot pike is behind the desk where Butler sat.

While Cromwell is the main focus, a few displays recognize both the building that houses the museum and the town.

One display shows a model of the medieval hospital that sat on the site. After the hospital’s closure, the small portion that now serves as a museum became a school, which Cromwell attended in the early 1600s.

Another display shows the 800-year-old charter that officially recognized Huntingdon as a town.

For those who live in or near the town, the museum is a nice place to kill some time during, say, an afternoon of shopping. Lots of items in the display cabinets will mean that return visits will probably guarantee visitors a chance to see something new when they visit.

There also is a Cromwell museum in Ely, near RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath.

Visiting the museumThe Cromwell Museum is in downtown Huntingdon on High Street. There is no admission fee.

The museum is closed on Mondays.

Between November and March, the museum is open Tuesday to Friday 1 to 4 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m., and Sunday 2 to 4 p.m.

The rest of the year the museum is open Tuesday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 4 p.m., and on Sunday 2 to 4 p.m.

More information is available on the museum’s Web site.

— Jason Chudy

Not left to rest in peace

Oliver Cromwell holds a unique distinction: He probably is the only man ever to be “executed” more than two years after his death — and is believed to be buried in more than once place.

Cromwell died while serving as England’s lord protector on Sept. 3, 1658, but on Jan. 30, 1661, his body was exhumed from Westminster Cathedral and posthumously “executed” by Charles II for his involvement in the death of Charles I.

And then things got really weird.

His skeleton — or at least everything other than his head — was then likely buried near London’s Marble Arch, according to a pamphlet put out by The Cromwell Association.

His skull — or what was reputed to be his skull — has seen a lot since then. It was on display for 20 years, then passed around as a collector’s item until it was bequeathed to his alma mater, Cambridge’s Sidney Sussex College, in the 1960s.

Cromwell’s skull was again buried, this time somewhere near the college’s chapel.

So not only was the commoner who turned down the crown executed after his death, but his head is buried about 70 miles away from the rest of his body.

If, that is, his body is really buried near Marble Arch. And if that is really Cromwell’s skull.

— Jason Chudy

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