Books and links to articles of Local History interest
“A Tanner Will Do” by Newmarket Local History Society’s Webmaster Rodney Vincent. A factual, but often humorous story of how the unchanging pattern of village life in the nineteen thirties faced up to the profound changes brought about by WWII. The village was Woodditton but it could have been any rural East Anglian village. Some copies still available from the Society (£12 + £3 postage).
When Newmarket went to War. The Society’s publication. This is an interesting little book put together by David Occomore, then passed to the Society and edited by Sanda Easom. Well-illustrated with pictures and with personal accounts of people who remember Newmarket during WW II. It gives a real feel for the times and as above, check with webmaster for availability.
“The Bombing of Newmarket” a major work by our Society published in 2011, edited by Sandra Easom. This is a well-researched and illustrated book, A4 size 87 pages, containing many first-hand witness accounts of the 1941 bombing. January 2018 update. A few copies are available from the Society (£ 12 + £3 postage)
“Newmarket Remembers” Tony Pringle’s work launched August 2014 giving names and details of all known Newmarket casualties in two World Wars.
There are copies in the library and Bury Records Office. All available copies have now been sold.
“Exning Remembers” Launched November 14th, 2013, compiled by Tony Pringle and edited by Sandra Easom. This is a very detailed record of those from the village of Exning who lost their lives as a result of two World Wars. A number of copies have been donated to local organizations and all spare copies have been sold.
“Newmarket- Medieval and Tudor” by Peter May. ISBN 0 9503024 5 7 A good look at life in Newmarket at the time. Still available on Amazon.
“The Changing Face of Newmarket 1600-1700” by Peter May ISBN 0 9503024 6 5. Similar style to the above and still available on Amazon.
“The History of Newmarket & its Surrounding Areas.” July 2001 saw the launch by The Society of this major publication, compiled and edited by Sandra Easom and funded by a grant from the Millennium Awards for All (National Lottery). A condition of the grant was that copies would be distributed free to all local schools to provide a work of reference for studies on local history, now part of the national curriculum. Local libraries, Records Offices, relevant museums, personal contributors etc. also received copies.
The two volumes that make up the book are packed with historical facts from earliest recorded times though to the 20th century, covering the origins of horseracing in the town and the influence of the royalty. The book is copiously illustrated with reproductions of old drawings, records, advertisements, photographs and has many personal reminiscences charting the people, the events and the buildings that have shaped the history of Newmarket and district. This is a unique work that took three years to compile and will continue in the future to form a valuable record for anyone interested in local history.
Two complete sets of the two-volume book are held by Newmarket Library for reference by the public and in addition one set is available for lending. For Society members a reference copy is also available in the Society’s study room at the Memorial Hall (by appointment).
Please note the book was not produced with the intention of going on general sale to the public. The two volumes are now out of print, but an updated edition is being considered as is a version on CD. Watch this website for the latest position.
Two other publications by The Society are included in The Schools Pack.
“One Afternoon in February” an illustrated booklet about the tragic bombing of Newmarket on February 18th 1941, and
“A Look at Five Newmarket Buildings” by Joan Shaw features five of the town’s historic buildings. Both books are now out of print but may be borrowed from Newmarket Library.
“Newmarket – a photographic history of your town”. This book, edited by Society member Joan Shaw, contains many nice monochrome pictures of Newmarket from the Frith Collection, mainly from the twenties and fifties decades. ISBN 1-84589-167-X Still available via Amazon at the incredible price of £32.
“A Racing Lad Steps Out” – the life and times of Newmarket character Billy Blythe published by the NLHS on 11th August 2006 and was only available from our Society.
Billy Blythe was born in Newmarket in 1893 and spent his early life working in local racing stables as a stable lad and jockey. This took him to Australia where he worked with sheep and horses and came to love the life.
During the Great War he served with the Aussies in France where he survived the terrible fighting during the Somme offensive of 1916 and right up to the armistice. Perhaps it is indicative of Billy’s optimistic nature that he makes light of this awful period and picks out some of the lighter incidents that came among the death and destruction.
After the war ended, he would have returned to his beloved Australia but for his wife ‘Beat'(Beatrice) who did not wish to leave Newmarket. He had an eye for business and seeing that he could buy fresh fish very cheaply straight from Grimsby or Hull he decided to go into the fish trade. Over the next decade he set up several fish and chip shops in the locality, including perhaps the best remembered one in Market Street. Little Billy became a well-known local character, very much in with the horse racing scene, and later greyhound racing.
Before he died in 1988 he wrote an autobiography for his family, and his son Bob has passed it to us. This was edited for the book by Sandra Easom and the photographs enhanced by Peter Norman. It contains fascinating material about the life and times in Newmarket.
“Newmarket 500 years ago” a valuable document by Peter May, the well-regarded Newmarket Historian. It is a potted history of Newmarket 500 years ago and was written prior to him publishing ‘Newmarket Mediaeval & Tudor’. The document can now be read online select here. (Please be aware that this is a pdf. document so you will need Adobe Reader installed on your computer and it could take a while to load, depending on your connection speed.)
“News from Newmarket 1800 – 1860” Published November 2003, by former Society Vice Chairman David Occomore. Half a century of newspaper accounts of Newmarket, portraying life in the town in Victorian times. ISBN 0 86025 51 31. Currently unavailable.
“Along the Line” – A book on old local railways by former NLHS Vice Chairman David Occomore June 2010.. It covers the rail connections between Newmarket, Cambridge, Ely and Bury St Edmunds over the period 1846 – 1914. Currently unavailable.
“Newmarket – Town & Turf” A pictorial tour of the town as it is today, containing many colour and monochrome pictures plus some historical background, edited by John Worrall and Rodney Vincent. Still available from Amazon.
“Newmarket: From James I to the Present Day” April 2000 by Laura Thompson available from Amazon.
“160 Years of Service to the Community: History of Newmarket General Hospital” by Dick Heasman. Available from Amazon.
And some links to articles on this website (work still not completed so you may not get there !
Frederick Archer– Probably the most famous jockey in Newmarket’s racing history shot himself in 1886 at the age of only 29, during a fit of depression after the deaths of his baby son and then his young wife.
Fred Archer became a national hero due to his personality and remarkable riding career. He rode 2,748 winners in 8,084 races between 1870 and 1886, including 21 classic winners. His death caused grieving across the land as well as abroad.
The family grave and memorial stone are in Newmarket cemetery. A special Personality Page of this website is devoted to Fred Archer select here. More information about Fred’s remarkable career and the circumstances surrounding his death are available online, thanks to the research done by Cambridgeshire families historian Mr. Geoffrey Woollard. To access select here.
Captain Barclay and Richard Dunwoody – In 2009 Champion jockey, explorer and BBC presenter Richard Dunwoody met a challenge first taken on by Captain Robert Barclay in 1809, which was to walk 1000 miles in 1000 hours. Capt. Barclay did it for a wager of 1000 guineas but Richard Dunwoody raised money for various charities. Both walks were carried out in Newmarket town over a repeat course. More about this remarkable feat is available on the internet by searching for ‘Captain Barclay’.
Newmarket Congregational Church – The Church used to stand in the middle of the High Street but in the mid 20th century it amalgamated with Christchurch, the Methodist Church at St Mary’s Square. The building is now occupied by The Stable, a meeting hall and morning cafe, although it is still church property. We have a history of the Congregational Church compiled by George Ginn and this can be accessed on application to Newmarket Local History Society via this site.
The Tragic Burwell Fire of 1727 – Eighty persons died when a barn caught fire in Burwell. To read about it select here.
Crime and Punishment in the 19th Century – Mark Jeffrey, once described as ‘the great English burglar’ was a local lad who turned to crime early in his life but spent the remainder of his days paying for his sins. Read about Mark’s tragic life select here.
The Newmarket Poor Law Institution (Workhouse), Exning Road – The old workhouse closed in 1942 and became the White Lodge Hospital. The old residential block has been turned into modern apartments.
For an account of life as it was select here.
Alex Henshaw MBE – This famous aviator lived in Newmarket for the last 20 years of his life, for a profile select here.
The Carlton Hotel – During its various phases this distinguished building dominated Newmarket’s High Street for more than a hundred years, until it was demolished in 1977. To read about the Carlton’s chequered history go to The Slicentime website.
Memories of the Home Guard – Out of the original 30 odd strong Wood Ditton & Saxon Street Home Guard platoon, not one survives to this day. To read Francis (Sonny) Cates memories of those wartime days select here.