Newmarket Local History Society society meetings, Newmarket's origins, Newmarket and Royalty
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We're based in... Newmarket... Suffolk...England, the historic horse-racing town associated with 'The Sport of Kings' from the time of King James 1st.
Medieval Market (see below)

Site last updated 16th January 2020- Programme updates etc, see below.

The Society meets every third Tuesday of the month from September to April at 7.30 pm at The Stable, High Street Newmarket (unless otherwise noted) when we have a visiting speaker. During the summer months (except August when there is no meeting) we usually arrange trips to local places of historic interest.


The High Street around 1905

What's New

July 30th 2019. The Wetherby Crossing.
Local residents are aware of the long established pedestrian crossing of the railway line, connecting the Granby Street area on the north side to the Cricket Field Road/ New Cheveley Road area on the south side. The line also provides a boundary btween the counties of Suffolkand Cambridgeshire.

Sandra Easom has had a query from Town Councillor Peter Hulbert who is looking for evidence (including personal testimony, that the Wetherby crossing was always a public right of way. I know older Newmarket residents must have memories of using the crossing in their younger days.
Sandra has sent sent him a section of the 1896 OS Map which appears to show a dotted footpath coming from there.
However, extra evidence to back this up would cer tainly help matters. If anyone has anything please send it to me or Peter (in that case please copy Sandra in)

Newmarket’s Medieval Market
By Sandra Easom, MSc

For over 800 years, since 1200 A.D., a general market has served Newmarket and the communities around it. This means that Newmarket’s medieval market is one of the oldest in Suffolk and perhaps, in the entire country.
Newmarket, as a community, was here long before the market gave the town its medieval name. The ancient Icknield Way runs through the town and it also has its own water sources, essential for any ancient habitation. Local archaeology also demonstrates that people have ived around here for millennia. However, after the Norman conquest in 1066, the whole area was divided and became part of Exning manor to one side of the Icknield Way and part of Woodditton manor to the other side.
During the reign of King John (1199 – 1216 A.D.) market trade expanded across the country and it increasingly became formalised under the control of the Crown. A Royal Charter had to be granted for any new market to exist and this also governed the days on which it could legally be held. Traders often travelled on from one market to another, so another consideration was whether other markets were held nearby? A community’s economy had to be protected. Consequently, official markets were only permitted to exist roughly a day’s journey apart from each other (13 – 15 miles).
So, how did Newmarket get such an early market charter? The land passed into the hands of Sir Richard de Argentein, an important and power ful man, around 1200 and it then became a manor in its own right. Apart from being lord of the manor, over time Sir Richard became Sheriff of Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire Essex and Hertfordshire. He also owned another manor at Halesworth in Suffolk. Sir Richard would have easily obtained a market charter from the King Newmarket presented excellent financial opportunities to its lord because of its position on a main highway which combined with pilgrims' and traders' routes. The market, and the accommodation that Newmarket provided for travellers, also contributed to a thriving economy for the town. Of course, Newmarket's residents were also farmers who grew food and brewed ale. They were able to trade these and other commodities because they were freemen and were not tied to the manor as people were in Exning.
By 1472 the market was large enough to be arranged in rows (a design still seen in Norwich market today). The rows then contained different, specialised trades and goods. Official records provide totals of 102½ different shops and stalls. Its importance to the area is shown by the fact that the market had its own court of law, concerned purely with market matters. Shops and stalls were rudimentary structures. Often, the front wooden shutters of a house were let down to form a counter or basic wood and fabric stands were unfolded. However, the placement of the shops and stalls was precise and measured. Two bailiffs supervised the market and fines were issued for any encroachment on unrented land. Of course, the rents and the fines were paid to the lord. Stallholders could hire the same place for years and even passed the right to rent it to their children.
During its long history the market has relocated a number of times. The High Street and The Rookery have been favourite locations. In fact, a market cross once stood in the High Street. Later in Newmarket’s history a corn exchange was added to the market and a cattle market also stood behind The Waggon and Horses pub. Many market animals arrived by train from Victorian times until the early 20th century.
Until 2018 the most recent market relocation, from the High Street to the Market Square, occurred in September 1975, when many changes occurred simultaneously in and around Newmarket. These included the demolition of the old Rookery area and the building of the new shopping centre together with the opening of the new Newmarket bypass.
What of the old, but persistent, myth that Newmarket sprang up after the plague caused the market to relocate from Exning? This was first the theory of a Victorian vicar of Exning, Thomas Dibdin, formed in the absence of any other evidence. His theory was repeated in a number of contemporary directories and so became rooted as “fact”. Following its market charter, Newmarket was granted its first fair charter in 1223. However, as the plague came to Exning in 1227, relocation of some of the population to Newmarket at that time is possible. The lord of the manor of Exning applied for, and was granted, a market charter in 1257. This was probably because he had seen the success of his neighbour’s market. This new charter would not have been needed if an Anglo-Saxon market had already existed. No records appear to support any use of the Exning market charter.

  • January 2018. From time to time the name of Rachel Mary Parsons arises when recalling Newmarket's post WWII history.
    Rachel was the daughter of Sir Charles Parsons the distinguished engineer who in 1884 invented the steam turbine engine that revolutionized marine propulsion.
    A correspondent, Ruth Baldesera who works in the former Parsons factory at Heaton is helping to create a lasting memorial to the Parsons family and has written to ask if we can locate the exact position of Rachel's grave in Newmarket Cemetery.
    Rachel herself had a distinguished career as an engineer and was the first lady to obtain a Cambridge University degree in Mechanical Emgineering.
    On the death of her father she inherited his considerable wealth and at first enjoyed the high society life of partying, fast cars and boats
    Her interest in racing brought her to Newmarket and she set up a stable at Branches Park Mansion near Cowlinge and also bought Lansdowne House in Falmouth Avenue Newmarket.
    Unfortunately, by the 1950s she had became very eccentric and developed a reputation among her employees and tradespeople of being a difficult lady to deal with. Some of our members remember her shuffling around the town looking in a neglected and sorry state
    Her behaviour was the cause of her being bludgeoned to death in 1956 at her Newmarket house by a former employee, a young stable lad who claimed she had not paid him what he was owed.
    For more comment and memories of this remarkable lady go to our current Correspondence entry (see Index above).

  • Our Society's two-volume publication 'Newmarket and its Surrounding Areas', launched in the year 2000' was intended chiefly to be a free issue to local schools, public libraries etc. and it has not been on sale to the public.
    It has remained a valuable work of reference on a wide range of local history subjects.
    Chapter 40 gives a short history of many villages and towns in the Newmarket locality and the list has now been reproduced on this website. Go to History of local villages and towns

  • The Cambridge Antiquarian Society
    Sandra Easom has drawn attention to this society and writes: Cambridge Antiquarian Society is a leading (amateur) archaeological society with origins in Victorian times. They have some influential members with meetings held in Cambridge. They have published some important papers over the years and have had some interesting speakers & topics.
    The 'Conduit' is their regular publication and you can find a link on Page 3 of our website in the table of associated sites of interest to NLHS.

  • March 21st 2017 Chapman's 18th century map of Newmarket is thought to be the oldest published plan of the town. Some recemt correspondence has brought to light more details of where copies are now held (see March 2017 Correpondence from Index below).

  • January 6th 2017. Well known Cambridgeshire historian Mike Petty has contacted us about the latest version of his Cambridgeshire Collection website which contains a vast number of intriguing tit-bits of history about many Cambridgshire villages and towns, from 1895 and covering most of the 20th century. Of particular interest to our members is the Newmarket Scrapbook file, which to quote Mike has "90 pages that hardly mention horseracing". Among the many items mostly culled from Cambridgeshire newspaper reports are some real gems, such as the report of the man who wanted to pull down the Clock Tower, or the discovery of the Ice Well. Well worth perusal. Go to Cambridgeshire Collection

  • February 15th 2016. We have made past references to Tony Pringle's dedicated work in honouring local personnel who gave their lives in the service of their country during the two world wars. He has published two books, 'Exning Remembers' and 'Newmarket Remembers' both mentioned elsewhere on this website (the latter see August 2014 below).
    Now his years of research have been brought together on a single website In addition to Newmarket town records the site covers a surprising number of surrounding villages and gives much detailed service and family information for individual names.
    Tony has accomplished a great deal but he is not one to say job done, finished. One advantage of a website over a published book is that it can always be added to and he is pleased to receive additional details should they become available.
    Thanks to this work relatives or descendents of those who made the great sacrifice can take comfort in knowing their dead will not be forgotten.

  • January 2014. Thanks to various enthusiastic people, a great source of pictures from Newmarket and district's past can be found on the Facebook site. You may have to be logged in to view the pictures. From the Facebook site search just enter 'Old Newmarket' to start the series and go to the albums.

  • Calendar of Events - 2018/19
    All events commence at 7.30 pm on the 3rd Tuesday of the month unless otherwise stated

    November 19th 2019 - Dr Paul Saban, The History of Medicine in Newmarket
    January 21st 2020 - 'Life on the Edge. The story of the Butcher family of 5, Lode Lane Wicken'
    Peter Green, National Trust, East of England
    February 18th 2020 - 'Excavations in the Deben Valley, East Suffolk:
    from Prehistory to the Saxons' - Andy Peachey

    How do I join the Newmarket Local History Society?
    It is quite simple really, you may do so by attending one of the programmed meetings, the doors open at 7 pm, and you can then join whilst there, the cost is just £8 per head, or you may wish to visit for one evening without commitment, this will cost £2 and you can go away and decide.

    NEWMARKET'S ORIGINS (notes provided by N.L.H.S Committee Member Sandra Easom)
    Mention Newmarket and most people think of the pounding hooves of horses and rolling expanses of green turf. The town is justly famous for both of these but its very long and varied history goes far beyond what most people expect.
    Unlike most mediaeval towns, Newmarket is not centred on either of its parish churches, St. Mary's or All Saints'. Rather, it is centred on the initial reason for its existence - the ancient Icknield Way - the oldest road in Britain. Its original route followed Palace Street, past All Saints' Church and across the present day cemetery. The Icnield Way also took other courses, notably through Stetchworth and Woodditton. People have journeyed along the Icknield Way since the Stone Age when flint was mined in Grimes Graves in Norfolk and then supplied an extensive trade network.
    The area where Newmarket now stands has springs of water and a small river which is essential for any settlement. Bronze Age barrows, showing evidence of early occupation, were scattered across Newmarket Heath until the 19th century when they were cleared to make better conditions for horse racing.
    Later, nearby Exning was a main settlement of the Iceni tribe (best remembered for their famous Queen Boudicca or Boadicea who led a major rebellion against the Romans). The Iceni were renowned breeders of horses and dogs, so the Heath has probably seen many more races than we are aware of!
    The area where the town now stands was given as dowry to Sir Richard de Argentein in 1200 A.D. when he married Cassandra, daughter of Robert de Insula, Lord of the manor of Exning. Sir Richard encouraged development of the town and was granted a charter for a market almost immediately by the King. In 1223 Newmarket received its first charter for an annual fair. It is important to note that the Plague arrived at Exning in 1227. Therefore, the Victorian theory that people left Exning to start a new town at Newmarket at this time cannot be true (although it is very persistent!).
    Newmarket thrived because of its market and a lucrative trade in accommodating travellers and so it continued for centuries, until King James I "discovered" its Heath in February 1604 as a great leisure venue for his court and Newmarket's sporting associations began.....

    The local history of Newmarket is inextricably tied up with the history of horseracing. The town is home to the National Heritage Centre which from the autumn of 2016 moved to its new premises at Palace House and Stables which now incorporates the National Horseracing Museum

    Address: Palace House, Palace Street, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8EP
    The information below has been supplied by Palace House Staff.
    Tel: 01638 667314
    The National Heritage Centre is situated in Charles II’s sporting palace and stables spanning five acres in the heart of Newmarket and comprises three complementary attractions. The new venue is result of over ten years planning, building and fundraising to become the biggest new attraction to open in Suffolk in the last decade. In April 2017 it was announced that the National Heritage Centre has been shortlisted as a finalist for the prestigious Art Fund Museum of the Year prize.
    What you will find at the National Heritage Centre at Palace House….
    National Horseracing Museum:
    Based in the old Trainer’s House and King’s Yard galleries the National Horseracing Museum tells the story of horseracing from its earliest origins to the world-wide phenomenon it is today. Using the latest interactive and audio visual displays the Museum also takes a different look at the sport, examining the science of the sport.
    Your visit will not be complete without riding a winner on our famous Racehorse Simulator!V Rothschild Yard: Discover and meet the heroes of racing themselves - the racehorses!
    The Rothschild Yard has been returned to its former glory to stable horses, showcasing the work of the Retraining of Racehorses charity. Here, you can get up close, and meet these beautiful animals. Twice daily, at 11am and 2.30pm demonstrations take place in the Peter O’Sullevan Arena. Check our website for more details of the resident horses and daily demonstrations
    Fred Packard Galleries:
    Situated in the remaining element of Charles II’s racing palace is the Fred Packard Museum and Galleries of British Sporting Art - a new home for the British Sporting Art Trust. Paintings by George Stubbs and Sir Alfred Munnings rub shoulders with works from John Singer Sargent and John Wootton showcasing the finest British Sporting Art from 17th – 21st Century.
    The Tack Room & Pantry Bakery:
    Situated in The King’s Yard is The Tack Room. It serves traditional British food with a twist, using the very best that East Anglia and in particular Suffolk has to offer.
    The Pantry Bakery offers food to go – from sandwiches to scones, delicious artisan breads and coffee.
    Palace House Shop
    Our gift shop stocks a wide range of merchandise to remind you of your visit to Newmarket. Many of the products that you will find take their inspiration from objects and paintings in our collections.

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