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Main Street, together with Granby Street, formed the main Ely to King's Lynn road before Crown Lane was widened in the 1930's. The name of the street has changed several times throughout the ages. It was called High Street in the early 18th century, later becoming Crown Street, and finally changing to Main Street in the early Victorian period.

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At different periods there have been several public houses in the street. One of the oldest was perhaps the Crown, which was in existence well before 1700. The owners in those early days brewed their own beer from water brought up from the river in a water cart. The Globe which occupied the site of the present CO-OP store was famous for being the Inn where the Riots began in 1816. It was sadly demolished in 1962. On the opposite side of the street was The Cross Keys, which until recently was occupied by Pages Gift Shop. The Hare and Hounds, which lost its license in 1874, is now occupied by Neal's carpet shop. On the opposite side of the street where the entrance to the car park is, was the site of The Bull, a short lived pub which closed in 1808. The last pub in the street was the Marquis of Granby, a large building on the Main Street/Granby Street corner, was also an hotel, and used to run its own carriage service to and from the station. The Granby closed in 1965.

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From the early Victorian period many houses along the Street began to be converted to shops. By 1900 the street was a busy shopping area, with 3 grocers, 2 butchers, 2 drapers, 2 clothiers, 2 confectioners, an ironmonger, a newsagent, a chemist, and a saddle and harness maker, and four pubs still open.

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The earliest purpose built shop in the street was the large building now occupied by The Littleport Bargain Centre and Barclay's Bank. It was built in the 1880's by Thomas Peacock, the founder of Hope Brothers Shirt Factory, and the first occupants were James Heygate, clothier, and William Cragg, butcher.

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Another new shop appeared in 1893, built for H & J Cutlack, ironmongers. This was taken over by their manager, John Adams, in 1900 and still trades today as J. H. Adams & Son. The building now occupied by North's Bakery was built in 1901 for Mr. Edwin Dring, a clothier. The large mock-Tudor building, with tall chimneys and a thatch roof was built in about 1930 for Lloyd's Bank, on the site of an old house, called Meader House, the home for many generations of the Martin family. In the early 1900's the Post Office occupied the front room of Mr. J.H. Adams house which stood next to his ironmongers shop. On the opposite side of the street in what is today Martin's Newsagents was the “fancy goods” and newsagents shop of Mrs Lucy Spenceley. Her son David R. Spenceley later took over the business; He was an accomplished photographer and produced many postcard views of the town. Next to Spenceley's was the old established chemist shop of William Cross Fitch. He manufactured his own medicines and seems to have had a remedy for most known illnesses. On his death in 1914 the business was taken over by his son Frederick William Fitch, who also manufactured ginger beer. The horse in the early 20th century was important for work of the farms and for transport, and Mr. Charles Defew's saddle and harness making business, which occupied a large house on the south side of the Street, now a men's hairdresser, was a thriving business. Further along the street, on the site occupied by Clarke's Menswear, the Ely Branch of the Co-operative Society opened a shop in 1911. It was so successful that it had to move to larger premises in Victoria Street in 1922.