Newmarket's Personalities from the Past - II

William Crockford (1775 -1844)

The sly old gambler - William Crockford (1775 - 1844)
Original drawing by Rowlandson in the British Museum

For the second of Newmarket's Personalities from the Past we look at a great gambler who to this day has left his mark upon the town - William Crockford.

Crockford was born the son of a humble fishmonger in London's Fleet Street where he quickly showed his flair for making money by profitable deals in the fish trade. This quickly evolved into bookmaking where with shrewdness and a quick wit he built up a large book, making enough money to buy a share in a West End gambling tavern. By some stroke of daring and luck he won a large sum of money with which he bought property in St James Street Mayfair. There he set up a luxurious gambling establishment which became famous as Crockford's Club, membership by annual subscription and patronized by the rich and famous of the land, including no less than the Duke of Wellington and Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli.

The Club proved to be a very profitable enterprise where by fleecing the wealthy clientele he amassed a fortune, so it was perhaps inevitable that he turned his attention to another source of gambling and sport - Newmarket.

In the town he invested heavily in property and land, first aquiring Thomas Panton's House in the High Street (now a bookmaker's shop and nightclub) which included a large parcel of land at the rear, part of which is now Tattersalls. He owned Ditton Lodge - the site of the present day Ditton Lodge School, and he built Crockford's Farm, to the south of the Dullingham Road, which still exists as part of the Stetchworth Estate.
Just across the road from Pantons he set up another gambling establishment at Rothsay House. Crockford also owned racehorses, his Sultan came second in the Derby of 1819, but he did not enjoy conspicuous success on the turf, the gambling houses were his forte.

This was a man born with a love for gambling, who quickly learned to prey on man's weaknesses and greed for his own profit, by a combination of slyness, astuteness and bold risk taking.

William Crockford, the great English gambler.

Left: Crockford's first Newmarket residence, 'Thomas Panton's House'. Right: Rothsay House, once a gambling den, now an Estate Agents
Today Newmarket still has reminders of Crockford's influence in the town, with a road, a housing estate and a farm bearing his name.

Newmarket Local History Society -'The History of Newmarket and Its Surrounding Areas'
Various other sources

Return to Personality No 1, Tregonwell Frampton
Go to Newmarket Personality No 3 - Admiral Henry Rous
Go to Newmarket Personality No 4 - Fred Archer
Go to Newmarket Personality No 5 - William Tutte
Go to Newmarket Personality No 6 - Caroline Duchess of Montrose
Go to Newmarket Personality No 7 - Sir John Astley
Go to Newmarket Personality No 8 - Col.Harry McCalmont
Go to Newmarket Personality No 9 - Capt James Machell
Go to Newmarket Personalities No 10 - Newmarket's Royal Heritage
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