Newmarket Local History Society society meetings, Newmarket's origins, Newmarket and Royalty
Welcome to


We're based in... Newmarket... Suffolk...England, the historic horse-racing town associated with 'The Sport of Kings' from the time of King James I in the early 17th century.

Site last updated March 17th 2018 - Newmarket's Mystery tunnels (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) we usually arrange trips to local places of historic interest.


A sad loss. A disastrous fire on the morning of 2nd March 2018 has partially destroyed Woodditton's 17th century inn, The Blackbirds.
The old inn has been a meeting place for many generations of villagers and the ghosts from the past must be mourning its fate.
This picture was taken in 1937 when it was known as 'The Three Blackbirds'.
Next door can be seen the farmyard with corn stacks, now occupied by an attractive housing development.

What's New

  • March 2018. A monumental task! Tony Pringle writes:
    A group of volunteers from the membership, co-ordinated by Tony Pringle, are about to undertake a project at the town cemetery. There are between 9,000 and 10,000 graves there and the aim is to record all the inscriptions on the gravestones and monument and hopefully also get photographs of them all. The results will then be lodged with the Council and West Suffolk (& Cambridgeshire) Records Office.
    Of course many graves are unmarked, but hopefully with the aid of the burials register we can assist in locating and identifying these. Many stones are becoming badly weathered, hence the need to crack on with the oldest first. Once a stone has started to flake it can very rapidly become unreadable.
    We are always happy to welcome more volunteers as it is quite a mammoth task. Ideally at least one of each pair needs to be happy with a digital camera (phone cameras these days are up to the job as well) and one at least needs to be comfortable with moving data about between computers and the internet. Accuracy will need to be the main criteria, and the pairs must be co-ordinated and stick to their allocated blocks or there will be duplication of effort, or worse, areas being missed.
    Luckily the Town Council recently had new plans drawn up of the entire cemetery, so we should be able to identify each plot now. Thanks to a Community Grant from Forest Heath District Council via Councillor Andrew Appleby, funding has been obtained.
    It now remains to see when the weather is favourable for the project to get under way in earnest. The Society's membership are happy not to just listen to speakers and make visits, but to also become active in recording more recent history of the town.

  • February 2018. Facts or Myths?
    People love a mystery and unexplained intriguing stories tend to grow in credibility over the years.
    It was inevitable that Newmarket with its past Royal, wealth and gambling associations should have it share of stories, but one that still pops up today is the question about Newmarket's alleged secret tunnels. Various tunnels are reputed to have been constructed in the past to facilitate clandestine meetings and there are some signs today that suggest such tunnels may have existed.
    A query fom a correspondent has prompted Sandra Easom to give her thoughts on this subject and her comments are on our Correspondence section (February 2018).

  • 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).

  • March 2018. From Tony Pringle:
    There is a plaque in All Saints Newmarket to Private Herbert Hughes who died in the BoerWar...He, it transpires, was the unwitting victim of what may well be a record. "The Times" recorded that his assailant was aged just 6 years when he pulled out a pistol and shot our Herbert in the abdomen....more here
    Then in the general subject of research...DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY BELIEVE ALL YOU READ... Being well versed by a sister who is meticulous in all aspects of research, I do not always believe what I have written myself first time round.
    Recently I was trying to expand on the history of a little known war memorial in Newmarket, the Nurses Home in Cardigan Street. This was built in 1923 to commemorate those who fell in the Great War. I was however puzzled by the Imperial War Museum Memorials Register having a list of 10 names attached to this record. This did not seem right somehow and a quick look at the names found them all linked with Prittlewell and Southend on Sea. I had even started to get this fact onto this website and into the Newmarket Journal, but that was forstalled by a very quick reply from the Imperial War Museum to my query. It transpired that some time in the past a clerk had entered the reference number for this list of men as being for memorial No 4579, which is the Nurses Home in Newmarket. In point of fact the correct reference was 45796, the Cornerstone United Reform Church in Southend on Sea, which of course is now the Essex Jamme Masjid Mosque !
    The very nature of, and time lapse involved, in war memorial research means I very often can find no corroborative evidence, but that does not mean that I cease looking. Ideally three independent sources are needed but that is in a perfect world. I am always quite happy to check any counter claims to my research and make corrections where necessary to
    Here in Newmarket we are not helped by the fact that the Roll of Hounour of All Saints School, St Mary's School, Laureate School, The Congregational Church, Catholic Church and Methodist Chapel have disappeared. Thanks to the Newmarket Journl we do have the All Saints School and Congregational Church lists, but the others seem to have vanished completely. Probably when those trendy folk in the 60's and 70's decreed that such things glorified war!

  • 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

  • Rodney Vincent's book 'A Tanner Will Do' about village life in the nineteen thirties and forties has been a successful publication with many copies sold locally as well as abroad.
    Now Rodney is making some of the remaining copies of the book available to NLHS members free of charge, but with voluntary donations all going to our Society's funds.
    For non-members of the Society the book can be purchased for just £3, or £5 if sent by post.
    If you haven't read this fascinating account of the life and times of a local village in the thirties and how it coped with the upheaval of WWII here is your opportunity. It could also make a good Christmas present!
    Copies will be available at our next meeting 19th December 2017
    More details about the book and NLHS publications can be found on Page 3 of this website under 'Local History and other books'(see Index above for link).

  • 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
    All events commence at 7.30 pm on the 3rd Tuesday of the month unless otherwise stated

    January 16th 2018 - 'Archaeology my Hobby' - Brian Parsley
    February 20th - 'Development of the Roman Landscape' -
    Andy Peachey (Archaeologist)
    March 20th - 'The Changing Face of Newmarket Railways' - Terry Cummins
    April 17th - The Society's AGM plus slideshow by Peter Norman
    May 15th - Visit to Elveden - St Andrew & St Patrick Church
    June 19th - Visit to St Nicholas Church, Kennet
    July 17th Visit to the British Trust for Ornithology, Thetford
    and a talk on the history of the buildings
    No meeting in August
    September 18th - 'Wrought by Fire' - Sandra Easom

    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.

    Next page (pg 2)

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