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NEWMARKET, the head of a union, and a market-town, comprising the parish of St. Mary in the hundred of Lackford, W. division of Suffolk, and the parish of All Saints in the hundred of Cheveley, county of Cambridge, 13 miles (N. E. by E.) from Cambridge, and 61 (N. N. E.) from London, on the road to Norwich; the whole containing 2956 inhabitants, of whom 2143 are in Suffolk. The earliest account of this town has reference to the year 1227, when it is supposed to have derived its name from a market then recently established, which is said to have been removed hither, on account of the plague raging at Exning, a village about two miles distant. In the time of Edward III. the place gave name to Thomas Merks or de novo Mercatu, Bishop of Carlisle, who was probably a native. A house called the King's house, was built here by James I., for the purpose of enjoying the diversion of hunting; and the subsequent reputation of the town for horse-racing seems to have arisen from the spirit and swiftness of some Spanish horses, which having been wrecked with the vessels of the Armada on the coast of Galloway, were brought hither. Its celebrity greatly increased in the reign of Charles II., who rebuilt and enlarged the King's house, which had fallen into decay during the civil war, and who frequently honoured the races with his presence. On the 22nd of March, 1683, being the time of the races, the King, Queen, and Duke of York were present; but a sudden conflagration compelled them to return hastily to London, to which event some writers have attributed the defeat of the Rye-house plot. By this fire a great part of the town was destroyed, the damage being estimated at £20,000. A second fire happened about the beginning of the last century. At the close of the civil war, Charles I. was removed on the 9th of June, 1647, from the house of Lady Cutts, of Childerley, to Newmarket, where he remained about ten days.

The town consists principally of one street, the north side of which is in the county of Suffolk, and the south in that of Cambridge; the houses are modern and well built, and some of them, erected for the occasional residence of visiters, are handsome: the inhabitants are supplied with water from springs. Coffee-houses, and billiard and other rooms, are kept for persons attending the races. The race-course and training-ground are the finest in the kingdom: the former is on a grassy heath near the town, and extends in length four miles; the training-ground is more than a mile and a half long, on a gentle acclivity, and admirably adapted to keep the horses in wind. The races are held seven times in the year, and are distinguished as the Craven meeting, commencing on the Monday in Easter-week; the first and second spring meetings, the former on the Tuesday fortnight following, and the latter a fortnight afterwards; the July meeting; the first and second October meetings, and the third October or Houghton meeting, the first of these three commencing on the Monday preceding the first Thursday in that month. The Queen gives two plates annually. The palace erected by King James has been sold, and part of it converted into shops. The additional structure by King Charles is standing: part of it was the residence of the late Duke of York during the meetings, and is now occupied by the Duke of Rutland; the remainder, with its extensive stables, is held under the authority of the crown. The training of race-horses is a source of extensive profit, some of the finest horses in the world being exported, at exceedingly high prices. About 400 are here during the greater part of the year. An act was passed in 1846 for effecting railway communication with Cambridge, and with Chesterford, in Essex; the line was opened in the autumn of 1847. The market, which was granted or confirmed in 1227, is held on Tuesday; and there are fairs on Whit-Tuesday and Nov. 8th, the latter fair being largely supplied with cattle, horses, corn, butter, cheese, hops, &c. The county magistrates preside at petty-sessions, every Tuesday; and a court leet is held occasionally. The powers of the county debt-court of Newmarket, established in 1847, extend over nearly the whole of the registration-district of Newmarket.

The living of St. Mary's is a discharged rectory, with the vicarage of Wood-Ditton consolidated, valued in the king's books at £4. 15. 2½.; net income, £375; patron and impropriator, the Duke of Rutland. The church is a handsome structure, with a tower and spire. The living of All Saints' is a perpetual curacy; net income, £100; patron, the Bishop of Ely. There is a place of worship for Independents. Queen Anne gave a donation of £50 per annum for the institution of free schools, but a national school having been established, the boys on that sovereign's foundation are instructed in it free. The union of Newmarket comprises twenty-nine parishes or places, twenty-two of which are in the county of Cambridge, and seven in that of Suffolk, altogether containing a population of 27,383. About a mile and a half from the town is a remarkable embankment, raised by means of excavation at one side, and called the "Devil's Dyke," extending nearly in a straight line for seven miles, and being in some places above one hundred feet in width. This work, unquestionably of remote antiquity, has been attributed to the Britons anterior to the time of Cæsar, and by some to Uffa, the first king of the East Angles. It formerly served for the boundary between the dioceses of Norwich and Ely, and is still the boundary of the several parishes that touch upon it. Several Roman coins were found near Newmarket heath, in 1750; and in 1836, three urns, evidently of Roman workmanship, containing ashes of the dead, were discovered.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.