Cavaliere* Eduardo Ginistrelli (1838 - 1920)
Oaks Lodge April 2012. Now part of the Oaks Business Park
The original wrought iron gates that were removed, probably in the early 2000s (Photo Mike Browne)
Today Oaks Lodge stands close to the entrance to The Oaks Business Park, midway between the town's two Fordham Road roundabouts. The surrounding modern office development blends in well with the Lodge but the latter is distinguished by its chimneys and archtitectural features, lacking in the modern buildings There is little to suggest that it was once the home of an eccentric Italian Trainer known as 'The Chevalier'* Eduardo Ginistrelli and that it stood on the site of the his Stud Farm, now covered by The Oaks industrial and commercial development.
The remarkable thing about Ginistrelli is that when he came to Newmarket from his Italian homeland in 1887 this little man was not taken seriously within British racing circles, and was even considered a figure of fun. However he had a vision of success and went on to confound his critics when in 1908, at age 70, his filly Signorinetta, ridden by Billy Bullock, won not only the Epsom Derby as a 100-1 outsider but two days later the Oaks as well. He received great acclaim from the racing world and was congratulated by King George V and Queen Mary.
When the wealthy Ginistrelli had first arrived in Newmarket he bought from Denis Jordan a villa in Fordham Road plus stables and two paddocks. He named the residence 'Villa Signorina' which later became known as Signorina Stud Cottage.
There he engaged in breeding and racing with moderate success, particularly with his mare Signorina. Ginistrelli decided to sire the mare with 'a 9 guinea stallion' of no particular merit named Chaleureux. on the unlikely reasoning that the two horses were 'in love'. The result was the foal Signorinetta. Ginistrelli married in 1910 at age 72 and built Oaks Lodge a year later, named after his classic win, while Villa Signorina was occupied by stable staff.
*The titles 'Chevallier' and 'Cavaliere' are French and Italian terms roughly equivalent to our 'Squire' meaning a gentleman of distinction. They are chivalric terms, understood to mean people who fight on horseback (knights), in other words, the upper classes/gentry, later used rather more as courtesy titles.
Caravans were not the only Alper interest. At the end of 1959 he started into boat building and brought in naval designer Geoffrey Lord to produce a new design of family sailing boat called Mistress. In 1958 he had started the successful Little Chef chain of roadside cafes, a business he sold to a large catering group but retained an interest until 1996. In 1965 he had bought Chilford Hall near Linton, where he planted different varieties of grape vines and set up an English winery. Sam was a lover of the arts and he built up a collection of sculptures by famous artists which can be seen in the grounds of Chilford Hall. He died there in 2002.
The Chilford Hall vinyard, conference and art centre is very much in evidence today and is run by his family.
Much more can be learned about Sam Alper and his caravan business from a book by caravan historian Andrew Jenkinson entitled 'The Story of Sprite Caravans', published by Veloce Publishing Ltd
Mike Browne, whose grandfather Thomas Browne worked for Ginistrelli as a stud hand from 1911 to 1917, when he was called up. His grandmother worked part time for Madam Ginistrelli up to the time the latter moved to Italy. Mike has provided much background information.
Sandra Easom, NLHS Vice Chair, who has come up with several useful links.
NLHS members Tony Pringle and Derek Coombes who provided information about Ginistrelli and Sam Alper's Newmarket caravan business.
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