Empire Street used to be called Brewery Street, because the most prominent business was the Hally brothers’ Brewery, producing vats of pure amber beer and fruit cordials.
The stones used in building the two-foot thick walls come from the river below the Fergusson bridge.
George Hally arrived in Cambridge via the Thames gold fields and started the brewery, with his brothers James and John, in 1872.
After a number of years the business was sold to Mr Edward Cussens then later sold back to Hally Brothers and run only as a cordial factory. Another change of ownership was made and Mr J Amos continued to make cordials until it was finally closed down prior to World War One.
Stories were told of occurrences incidental to the process of brewing; of a wild Irishman who elected to bathe in one of the vats and was discovered by an irate manager ‘in liquor’ in every sense of the term; of bumble bees deceived by a similarity of colour becoming well and truly ‘primed’; and of the brewery pigs showing all the manisfestations of having had ‘one over the eight’.
In 1903 George Hally led a petition to have the name of the street changed from Brewery to Empire Street.