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79 Ainsworth Street

The Empire Off-Licence

79 Ainsworth Street is a single property at the end of a terrace on the west side of Ainsworth Street.

1881 census

Joseph Egan, head, 46, sergeant instructor to 1st Cambridge Volunteers & general dealer, b. Ireland
Martha Egan, wife, 39, teacher, b. Burbage, Leicestershire
Emily Egan, daughter, 10, scholar, b. Bristol, Gloucestershire
Joseph C Egan, son, 8, scholar, b. Aldershot
Edward Egan, son, 7, scholar, b. Ely, Cambridgeshire
Martha Egan, daughter, 3, scholar, b. Ely, Cambridgeshire
Annie L Egan, daughter, 1, b. Cambridge

Joseph Egan was the Sergeant Instructor to the 1st Cambridgeshire Rifle Volunteer Corps.

The regiment had its origins in the rifle volunteer corps formed in Cambridgeshire and the Isle of Ely in 1860, and by 1880 had amalgamated to battalion size. In 1881, as part of the Childers Reforms, the 1st Cambridgeshire RVC were nominated as a volunteer battalion of the Suffolk Regiment. This RVC is the foundation of the later formed Cambridgeshire Battalion and then Cambridgeshire Regiment of the British Army, and troops from the regiments were in the Trenches during the First World War, and in fighting the Japanese in the far east during the Second World War. After the wars, the regiment was disbanded and its lineage is continued under the Royal Anglian regiment.

Joseph Egan also worked as a general dealer, according to the census, as he would have needed to make money as his role in the Army was in a Voluntary Corp and so would have been unpaid.

Joseph and Martha Egan went on to have four more children: Eveline, Elvira, Thomas and William. Elvira was born at 79 Ainsworth Street in 1883 and died in 1887.  She is buried in Mill Road Cemetery alongside her parents and her brother William, who was born in 1887 and died in 1888.

1891 census

George Baker, head, 35, carpenter, b. Sullington, Sussex
Sarah Baker, wife, 35, b. Boldon, Essex
Ernest George Baker, son, 5, scholar, b. Grantchester, Cambridgeshire
Bertha E Baker, daughter, 3, b. Grantchester, Cambridgeshire
Berry W Baker, son, 6 mo, b. Cambridge
Rebecca Hall, lodger, 75, living on means, b. Norfolk
Anne M Hall, lodger, 38, cook, b. Cambridge

As a carpenter, George Baker would have been in fairly high demand given the rapid expansion of Cambridge during this era. The Kerridge timber yard and construction company on Sturton Street occupied the the plot behind no. 79, and he may have worked there.

The first lodger, Rebecca Hall, is described as ‘living on her own means’, on a retirement stipend, meaning she can pay her rent and lodgings in a private house rather than going into the Union Workhouse on Mill Road in her old age. The other lodger, Clare Hall, presumably Rebecca’s daughter, is listed as ‘cook, dom’, which means she worked as a domestic servant, a cook in a private home.

On the Temperance Society Map in 1894, the building is shown as an off-licence, but on the 1891 census the residents appear to have no connection with the shop below.

1901 census

John G Dippold, head, 71, tailor, b. Germany
Margarita Dippold, wife, 69, b. Germany

In 1891, John and Margarita (or Margaretha) Dippold were running the Claremont Arms public house across the street at 74 Ainsworth Street. Although John is now listed as a tailor, no longer a publican, and Margarita has no occupation listed, there is a possibility they are running an off-licence, as it is listed as such.

1911 census

Samuel Edwards, head, 54, gardener & off-licence, b. Somersham, Huntingdonshire
Emma Edwards, wife, 54, assistant in off-licence, b. Norwich
Alice Edwards, daughter, 29, assistant in off-licence, b. Cambridge
Lillie Edwards, daughter, 27, assistant in off-licence, b. Cambridge
Minnie Edwards, daughter, 21, dressmaker, at home, b. Cambridge
Lewis Edwards, son, 13, at school, b. Cambridge
John Dippold, boarder, single, 81, tailor, pensioner, at home, b. Germany
John Newman, boarder, widower, 28, printer’s compositor, b. Cambridge

Samuel and Emma Edwards had been married for 33 years. They had had eight children, of which three had died.

From 1891 to 1901 they were recorded as living across the road at 76 Ainsworth Street.

The first boarder, widower John Dippold, is the German tailor who used to run the Claremont pub across the street. It is possible he is helping the off-licence to grow its own hops. This might explain why the off-licence needed a gardener and why no.  81 is, and always has been, an empty or garden plot.

1921 census

Emma Edwards, head, 65, widow, off licence holder, b. Norwich, Norfolk
Lewis Edwards, son, 23, general labourer, GER Loco, b. Cambridge
Molly Patrick Groves, boarder, single 21, land worker, Collins Solicitor, b. Trimm, Ireland
Thomas Hammond, boarder, single, 42, labourer, Ginn Hay Dealer, b. Barmiston, Suffolk
Francis James Bruce, boarder, single, 23, waiter & valet, Mitchell & Booker, b. Cork, Ireland
Hollard George Bryan, boarder, single, 24, agent, Carr General Merchant, b. Longton, Staffordshire

Emma Edwards, now a widow, is described as off-licence holder for Edwards Off Licence, 79 Ainsworth Street. The only one of her children still at home is her son Lewis, who works as a labourer on the railways – though he is currently off work.

Emma also has four paying boarders, very diverse in ages and occupations, suggesting that Emma was letting out rooms individually, rather as in a boarding house. Molly Groves, from Ireland, is a land worker for Collins Solicitors, Gog Magog Hills. Thomas Hammond is an agricultural labourer for Ginn Hay Dealer. Francis Bruce is a waiter and valet for Messrs Mitchell & Booker in Kensington. Hollard Bryan is an agent working for Carr General Merchants.

According to trade directories in the mid-twentieth century, 79 Ainsworth Street was called the Empire Off-Licence. Beer may have been brewed on site, and hops may have been grown in the garden. Elders in the community recall buying penny sweets there in the 1950s to 1970s.

Source: 1881–1921 census, Temperance Map of 1894 from the Cambridgeshire Collection, City Library, Cambridgeshire Regiment,


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