Brown & Co (Ely) Ltd shop frontage re-appears on Forehill

An old shop sign re-emmerges on Forehill, Ely, right nextdoor to the former bakery of my Cross relatives. But what’s the history?

On Sunday, I was enjoying strolling in the sunshine in Ely, when I stumbled across this piece of work-in-progress on Forehill. Intrigued, I couldn’t resist a rummage in the records…

A close-up of the elaborate painted shopfront and proud historical signage.

Fortunately for me, immediately next door, is The Royal Standard pub, which was once two properties – the upper-hill part (and nearest to this shop, and shown in yellow below) was the bakery of Frederick Thompson Cross (my Great Grandmother’s second cousin, twice removed), and later his son Vernon Cross, both relatives of mine.

The shopfront of Brown & Co. (Ely) Ltd uncovered on Forehill, with the elaborate door on the right. The yellow painted building was home to the Cross family bakery.


The 1901 census reveals that Forehill was home to a range of businesses – including confectioner, publican, watchmaker, baker (my family), a boarding house, and a clothier.

The sole clothier on the street, and so likeliest candidate for this shop was Alfred Hammence, aged 51 in 1901, from Ely. With his wife Hannah, they were immediately before the Cross family on the census return.

Alfred and Hannah were joined by their daughters Lilian Mary (22) and Ellen Eugene (20), and Edward Spelman, a 25 year old assistant clothier.


Ten years earlier in 1891, Alfred and Hannah are at the same address, and this time, the location is clearer, with the census naming ‘The Royal Standard’ pub on the other side of the Cross’ bakery. Alfred and Hannah are joined by six children, a boarder, and a servant.

1891 Census for Forehill, Ely
Alfred Hamence, and neighbours the Cross family, on Forehill, Ely, in 1891. Click to see census on


Ten years earlier still, Alfred, now aged 31, is living at the property with his wife Hannah and their three sons Bertram (5), Hubert (3), and Ernest (1), and two daughters Lillian (2), and Ellen (2 weeks old). Also with them is William Malthouse, a 21 year old ‘clothier’s assistant’ from Hull, Yorkshire, nurse Lucy Mann (55) from Exning, Suffolk, and servant Elizabeth Lofts (17) from Little Downham.

Next door, in what was yet to become the Cross’ bakery, lives John G Benson, a baker from Norfolk. Frederick Cross at this time was living at home a few streets away in Waterside, where he’s noted as a ‘baker’.


Stepping further back, in 1871, a 21 year old Alfred Hamence is noted is now an Assistant at the same shop – the shop itself being managed by Benjamin Bagg (30), who is noted as ‘head’ of the household, and as a ‘Tailor’s foreman and manager’ from Bethnal Green, Middlesex. Along with Benjamin and Alfred are, Benjamin’s wife Caroline (30), their son Ernest (2), daughter Minnie (8 months), Benjamin’s sister Sarah (35), and William Dobson Carr (14), a ‘clothier’s apprentice’ from Whetherby, Yorkshire.

Again, what was to become the Cross’ bakery, was a bakery already, but it is now run by John Moore, a 41 year old ‘miller and baker’ from Mendham, Suffolk.

Sadly, the 1861 census for Ely was lost in a flood, so my view further back is obscured.


Coming forward again to 1911, Alfred, now 61 years old, remained at the address, as an ‘outfitters manager’, but he is joined by his wife of four years, Agnes Ellen, who at 44 years old, is 17 years younger than her husband. The couple live only with another assistant, Russell George Jude – a 24 year old ‘outfitters shop assistant’ from Mildenhall, Suffolk.

Ornate Evidence

Whilst the ornately decorated sign claims that ‘this clothing shop was opened in 1810′, I don’t have evidence to support that, not least because I don’t have access to any trade directories, or deeds, and of course the useful censuses don’t stretch far enough back, but there seems to be some essence of truth to the business’ longevity here.

Quite who ‘Brown’ was, and going by the suggestion of the shop sign, where the rest of his shops were – that’s all currently beyond the records I can search right now.

I have photographs of my Cross’ bakery nextdoor from 1892, 1896, 1906 and 1960 (as published in Vernon Cross’ autobiography ‘Cross Words’, but all give only about a 1 brick width insight into the style of Mr Hamence’s shop front.

What next for Alfred Hamence’s shop?

I’m hoping that whoever is carrying out this restoration, isn’t about to apply a layer of gloss over this terrific, and historical, signage, and that it will once again be boarded over and preserved, in hiding, for another generation to stumble across on a sunny Sunday.

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Bulldozing History – How the Eagle and Lamb became extinct

How The Eagle and The Lamb became extinct in Ely, Cambridgeshire, and how my ancestors survived it.

I get a sense of comfort or closeness in knowing that I am visiting somewhere where an ancestor once worked, lived, or even died. I don’t think I am alone in this, but it’s frustrating when you can’t see or visit the place they once knew.

It was five years ago since I first wrote about my publican ancestor, the uniquely named ‘Vine Cross’ (or Sabina Steadman Taylor as it turned out), on this blog.

Since then, my goal of seeing a photograph of her now demolished pub had drawn a blank and I aptly put it ‘on ice’. However, I recently received an email from a Robert Flood who had seen my request somewhere online, and had a photograph of the pub on file. This was Vine’s home and business. This was The Eagle and Lamb on Cambridge Road in Ely, Cambridgeshire.

The Eagle and Lamb, Cambridge Road, Ely
The Eagle and Lamb just before demolition in the 1980s.

You can be sure it’s the same site, going by the distinct chimneys of the house next-door, and that the pub site was also home to the Eagle brewery, part of which has been incorporated into one of the few houses that the newer development contains. The photo is sad, and I can probably understand why it was demolished in 1987/88. The pub closed in September 1932.

The modern day site gives little away – the lampost has seemingly moved a few feet, and perhaps some brick wall survives, but aside from this, there’s no other mark of this once being a place where many patrons enjoyed getting slightly (respectfully of course) sloshed, and where my Great Great Great Grandmother ‘Vine’ Cross and her husband George worked and lived, and for a while seemingly brought up their daughter’s Moden family.

Between George and Vine, the couple had the second longest landlord holding of the property (12 years). They were beaten only by Charles Scarr who held it from 1873 to 1889.

As for the wider history of the site, I turn to ‘Ely Inns’ by Patrick Ashton. As part of his book he has documented its past from the land purchase in 1848. He says:

.. on 7th April 1856, Richard Porter, freehold brewer, purchased the site for £700 and ran his business from there until he sold the premises to Morgan’s Brewery Co. Ltd on 24th June 1889 for £1250. Morgan’s closed the brewery part of the business in 1902 but used the site as a distribution depot until 11th May 1920 when Ely brewers A&B Hall purchased the premises for £5000.

My Great Great Great Grandfather George Cross was landlord from 1892 until his death in 1898, afterwhich he was succeeded by his wife ‘Vines Cross’, who then held it from 1899 to 1904.

In 1901 Sabina appears as ‘Vina Cross’, a 48 year old widow. Joining her at The Eagle and Lamb, are a ‘roadman’ Richard Ingrey (67yrs), and William Lemon (44yrs) a ‘railway platelayer’. In two rooms, it is listed that her 30 year old married daughter Mary Ann Moden, was living with there with her husband Edward and their three daughters (one being my Great Grandmother, Susan Jane Moden).

Calling time on pub life

Ten years later, she’s still on Cambridge Road, but living further along on the corner with Barton Road. She’s living alone, aged 58 years, and working as a shop keeper.

Vine Cross signature 1911

Sabina/Vine died in March 1916.

The shop was handed on to her daughter Mary Ann Moden who lived nearby, and the site remained as a shop until the 1980s (during which time I visited it once as a child, but was completely oblivious of my connection to it). It is now a private house.

What next for my Eagle and Lamb research

I hope to now find more records relating to George and ‘Vine’s time at The Eagle and Lamb, and also seek out an old photograph of Vine’s shop whilst it was under her ownership. It seems that there may be a trail of brewery documents to follow, but for now, it remains a mystery.

If you use Google to search for the Eagle and Lamb in Ely, Cambridgeshire, you pretty much only get search results for content that I’ve created. Surely there’s more information waiting to be discovered?

Crossing the Royal Standard

Taking a trip back in time to Mr Cross’ tea shop on Forehill.

Cross Advert 07-11-1930, originally uploaded by familytreeuk.

The other weekend, amidst the constant drizzle of a wet Sunday in Ely, I decided that it was about time that I went to The Royal Standard pub 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.