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The Eaden Lilley Family Vault

The closure of the Eaden Lilley Department Store in June 1999 brought to an end the long association of that family business with Cambridge.

12 members of the Eaden Lilley family lie at rest in the vault spanning the three generations who ran the store between the 1830s and 1930s.

Location A25.585

Remembered on the headstones are:

William Eaden Lilley (1) and  his second wife  Rachel Martha Lilley

William Eaden Lilley (2) and his wife  Anna Barbara Lilley

Walter Eaden Lilley  and his wife Annie Lilley

Children of  William Eaden Lilley (1)   : Rachel, Philip, Edith, Caroline, Agnes and Arthur.

In 1798 William Eaden  joined the thriving town centre haberdashery store owned by his father in law. Displaying a natural inclination towards the business he rose to be a partner and eventually the sole owner.  Meanwhile one of his four daughters had married David Lilley and in 1816 had a son christened William Eaden Lilley (1). [1816 – 1884]. 

The child grew up around the store and his grandfather encouraged his interest with the expectation that he would join the firm.


Eaden2  William Eaden Lilley (1)
In 1839 after his grandfather’s death William(1) took over the business. At this time they sold haberdashery, linens and drapery as well as some hardware and an Oil shop supplying oils for lighting, heating and treating harness leather. There was also a significant wholesale trade supplying small shops throughout the Fens and into Norfolk and Suffolk.  The Victorian era had just begun and the coming growth and prosperity of the Country were to be reflected in the success of the Eaden Lilley business.


In 1883 William (1) handed over to his son also William Eaden Lilley (2). [1841 – 1913].  They now had premises in Market Street, Sidney Street and Green Street, employed some 40 people and had the wide range of merchandise that merited the description 'Department Store'.  Wages were low, hours were long and constraints on behaviour both at and outside work were onerous. However the guarantee of secure employment with a respected employer meant that positions were sought after.  Further expansion followed the establishment of the business as a limited company in 1888 although different departments were still spread around the various small premises in the town centre.
Eaden3 William Eaden Lilley (2)

William’s brother Philip Henry  Lilley  1851 – 1920. was also a director of the firm and was amongst those recommending that William’s son Walter Eaden Lilley [1877 – 1934] should join the Board in 1898. In 1928 Walter oversaw the reconstruction into the ‘department store’ form that  largely remained until the 1990s.

Walter’s sudden death in 1934 meant that non family directors ran the business through the war years until younger members of the family joined the board. Although closed in Cambridge in 1999 the family store continued in Saffron Walden, Shelford and St Ives but these branches have now also closed.
Eaden4 The Market Street frontage of the store in the 1960s

William (1) was  one of the original shareholders and trustees when the General Cemetery Company was set up in 1843. William (2) and Walter continued this involvement both as trustees and Directors of the Company until Walter’s death in 1934 shortly before responsibility for the Cemetery passed to the Council in 1936.

Information and Photographs from  Ian Ormes : Eaden Lilley 250 Years of Retailing. Pub. 2000.  W Eaden Lilley & Co. Ltd.  Ann Rees : The Cambridge General Cemetery Company


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