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Newmarket, Cambridgeshire

Historical Description

Newmarket, a market and union town, the head of a county court district, and two parishes. The greater part was formerly in Cambridgeshire, but one of the parishes and part of the town was in Suffolk, and under the Local Government Act of 1888 the whole of Newmarket passed into the administrative county of Suffolk. The boundary line between the two counties ran along the High Street. The town stands on Icknield Street, 12 miles by road, but 15 by railway, ENE of Cambridge, and 72 from London. It has been celebrated for its races since the time of James I.; it was desolated by fire in 1683 and 1700; and it now is the chief seat of the Jockey Club, and the place of numerous training establishments. Its races are said to have originated in the arrival of some horses which escaped the wreck of the Spanish armada; and they acquired celebrity by the erection here of a palatial hunting-seat of James I., called the King's House, which was rebuilt by Charles II. There are numerous stables belonging to trainers in the town and neighbourhood, the different training establishments affording accommodation to about 2000 horses. The race-ground lies on the Downs, about a mile W of the town, and has a rich variety of arrangement and a pre-eminent degree of adaptation. The Beacon course, which is seldom used, being too severe for the horses, has a circuit of 4 miles, 1 furlong, 138 yards; the Round course, 3 miles, 4 furlongs, 167 yards; and ten other courses, less and various, the shortest being 2 furlongs, 47 yards. A remarkable ancient work, called the Devil's Ditch, adjoins the race-ground; extends to a length of 4 or 5 miles; has a mean breadth of 100 feet; consists of a deep ditch and a mound, with a slope of 52 feet on the one side and 26 on the other, and formed part of the boundary between East Anglia and Mercia. Roman coins and other Roman relics were found near this work in 1750. Races are run eight times in the year, the meetings being as follows:-1, The " Craven " meeting, named after a late earl of that name, and commencing on Easter Monday; 2, " First Spring," on the Monday fortnight following; 3, "Second Spring," a fortnight later, distinguished by the running of the celebrated " Two Thousand Guineas;" 4 and 5, First and Second July meetings, respectively famous for the " July" and " Chesterfield" Stakes; 6, the " First October " meeting, in which the " Great Eastern Handicap" is the chief event; 7, the " Second October" meeting with the " Cesarwitch Handicap" and " Middle Park Plate;" and 8, the " Houghton, " renowned for the " Cambridgeshire Handicap," which closes the sporting year. These races are very popular, and they invariably draw a large concourse of rank and fashion.

The town is situated partly in a valley but chiefly on a gentle declivity on the verge of a vast area of down or heath-land, and it consists principally of one long, spacious, well-built street. Most of the houses are modern; and many, erected as residences for the nobility and gentry attending the races, or occupied by the leading jockeys and trainers, are very handsome. The hotels are proverbial for their good accommodations; two coffee-houses are conveniently furnished for the use of sportsmen; and the Jockey Club's Rooms and the New Subscription Rooms in the centre of the town are commodious and elegant. The palace, rebuilt by Charles II., was erected after designs by Wren, but part of the site of it is now occupied by a Congregational chapel built in 1863, and part of its walls was used as material for building the chapel. A house which was occupied by Nell Gwynne, and another which was built by the celebrated Duke of Queensberry, still stand. The town is a seat of petty sessions and county courts, and a polling-place, and has a head post office, a station on the G.E.R., three banks, a corn market, a literary institution and reading-rooms, three churches, a Roman Catholic church, Congregational, Primitive Methodist, and Wesleyan chapels, two county police stations, and a public hall. All Saints' Church, erected in 1876-77, on the site of an older building, is an edifice of flint and stone in the Decorated style. St Mary's Church, which is in Suffolk, is a building of flint and stone in the Early English and Lato Perpendicular styles; contains a restored piscina and a monument to Trampton, trainer to William III., Anne, George I., and George II. St Agnes' Church, erected in 1886, is a building of red brick with dressings of stone in the Decorated style. A weekly market is held on Tuesday, and fairs are held on Whit-Tuesday and 8 Nov. The workhouse, which is in Exning road, within Exning parish, is a building of brick erected in 1836, and has capacity for 500 inmates. Bishop Merks, or De Novo Mercatu, and the physician Harewood were natives.

The two parishes are Newmarket All Saints and Newmarket St Mary. Area of All Saints, 127 acres; population, 2322; area of St Mary, 234 acres; population, 2543. The ecclesiastical parish of All Saints has a population of 3364; of St Mary, 2684. The ecclesiastical parish of St Agnes was formed in 1887 out of the parishes of Newmarket St Mary and Exning Suffolk, and has a population of 227. The living of All Saints is a vicarage in the diocese of Ely; gross value, £227 with residence, in the gift of the Bishop of Ely. The living of St Mary is a rectory in the diocese of Ely; net value, £221 with residence. The living of St Agnes is a vicarage in the diocese of Ely; gross value, £200, in the gift of the Duke of Montrose.

Newmarket Parliamentary Division of Eastern Cambridgeshire was formed under the Redistribution of Seats Act of 1885, and returns one member to the House of Commons. Population, 48,878. The division includes the following : -Ely (part of)-Ely College, Holy Trinity, St Mary; Newmarket-Ashley, Borough Green, Brinkley, Binwell, Cheveley, Chippenham, Dullingham, Fordham, Isleham, Kennet, Kirtling, Landwade, Newmarket, Snailwell, Soham, Stetchworth, Westley, Wicken, Woodditton; Bottisham- Bottisham, Cherryhinton, Fenditton, Fulbourn, Horningsea, Stow-cum-Quy, Swaffham Bulbeck, Swaffham Prior, Teversham, Wilbraham (Great), Wilbraham (Little); Linton- Abington (Great), Abington (Little), Babraham, Balsham, Bartlow, Carlton, Castle Camps, Duxford, Hildersham, Hinxton, Horseheath, Ickleton, Linton, Pampisford, Sawston, Shudy Camps, West Wickham, West Wratting, Weston Colville, Whittlesford.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5

Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Cambridgeshire is available to browse.


Online maps of Newmarket are available from a number of sites:

Newspapers and Periodicals

The British Newspaper Archive have fully searchable digitised copies of the following Cambridgeshire papers online:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Cambridgeshire 1575 and 1619 is available online.

DistrictForest Heath
Postal districtCB8
Post TownNewmarket