Taking a trip back in time to Mr Cross’ tea shop on Forehill.
I’m tee-total, but my reason for going in there was not so much to warm up over a nice cup of tea or their incredible sunday lunch (check it out)… it was actually to step back in time and visit the very location where my Cross relatives opened Ely’s first tea shop.
My mother has always wanted a tea shop herself, so when I discovered that the Cross family had kept one, she was excited by the news.
The shop, based in a 16th century building about halfway down Forehill (now the right hand side of The Royal Standard), was opened by Frederick Thompson Cross in about 1892. He originally intended the shop to be a picture framing business but after adding a side-business of a bakery, it was clear what Ely wanted most.
The bakery expanded, selling fine cakes and sweets and Mr Cross reaped the rewards.
In his spare time, with his son Frederick Vernon Cross (F. Vernon Cross), he would search places like Roswell Pits, in search of antiquities like fossils. His son, Vernon, was also a keen performer and he traveled the country performing magic tricks and ventriloquist acts (his father made the dummies – and they have been preserved in Ely Museum).
I went on to find a copy of F. Vernon Cross’ autobiography “Crosswords” on eBay (only to find further copies for sale at Ely Museum – but we’ll come to that bit in a moment)…
With the bakery taking off, and their collection of historic items growing too, Vernon began to blend the two together after his father’s death and combined a small museum and bakery.
Upon Vernon’s death, his collection was donated to the Ely Museum, where it forms an important part of their exhibitions. They have even named a function room after him.
I was pleased to recently find the above advert on the top right front page of the Ely Standard, dated 7th November 1930. It seems that Vernon ran several consecutive advertising campaigns on the newspaper header. The cake certainly sounds very appetising.
It was a nice feeling when I saw that The Royal Standard, although under new ownership, still had the “Frederick Thompson Cross” wooden shop sign and a framed photograph on the wall. I didn’t mention my connection but instead tucked into a huge Sunday roast on a plate that was almost too big for the table – another satisfied customer!
I have yet to establish where his Cambridge shop was located.