The imposing home once used as an orphanage on a quiet Cambridge street

Jubilee House in Cambridge was briefly used as an orphanage
Jubilee House in Cambridge was briefly used as an orphanage -Credit:Google

Cambridge is full of surprises, with the occasional building that stops you in your tracks. That's the effect Jubilee House had on me when I walked past it after a drink at the nearby Cambridge Blue.

The large, imposing building set back from the street with large horse chestnut trees in front of it stands in stark contrast to nearby homes. Like many houses off Mill Lane once home to railway workers, the majority of other houses down Hooper Street are small terraced homes.

Although its neighbours are mostly houses, with the odd pub in the mix, Jubilee House has had a slightly more interesting past. It has also previously been known as Edinburgh House – grand names for a grand building.

One of the first known inhabitants of the house was James West Knights, an analytical chemist, according to the 1881 census. He advertised in local newspapers his skills of analysing food, drugs, milk, and water to determine whether they were edible and potable.

In 1887, the house was called home by 'fatherless boys'. It was used as an orphanage and the young boys were fed and clothed there, going to school nearby in York Street.

The boys could also use a small workshop attached to the building 'for recreation'. The orphanage was set up by Reverend Arthur Alfred Avann of St Matthew's Church, who worked hard in the community.

It's not clear what happened to the orphanage, but it didn't last long. By 1891, it seems that it was being used as the infirmary for the Leys School, with two sisters (a caretaker and a domestic nurse) recording as being there for the 1891 census.

After that, it was used for at least a decade as a home for nurses, before then being used by Cambridgeshire County Council as their office for 'public assistance'. It was later used for the county council's 'youth employment service'.

The house has since been divided into duplex flats with one or two bedrooms. From its origins as a private home, it has housed all manner of people and organisations, before becoming a quiet place to live once more.

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