Newmarket in 1839
NEWMARKET is a market-town, situated principally in the county of Suffolk, though some part, including the whole of the race-course, is in Cambridgeshire. Its direct distance from London is 55 miles north-north-east and from the town of Cambridge 12 miles west. The street is long and wide, well lighted, but only partially paved. There is a filthy watercourse running directly through the heart of the town. The houses for the most part are modern and well built. The greater part of the town was destroyed by fire in 1623, and again in the early part of the last century. The destruction of property on the former occasion was estimated at £20,000.
Horse-racing does not appear to have been introduced here till about the close of the sixteenth century, when some of the horses which had escaped from the wrecks of the Spanish Armada are said to have been exhibited here, and to have astonished the spectators by their extraordinary swiftness. Soon after the accession of James I to the English throne horse-racing became a fashionable diversion, and a house was erected at Newmarket for the accommodation of him and his court. This house having been much injured during the civil war, instructions to rebuild it were given by Charles II, who was a distinguished patron of the turf. Part is still standing, the rest having been pulled down : adjoining are the extensive stables formerly used for the royal stud. The race-course is on the western side of the town. It extends four miles in length, and is considered the finest in the world. The prosperity of the place is mainly dependent upon the company which the races never fail to attract, and the training of horses, many of which are exported or otherwise disposed of at high prices. The training-ground is on a gentle acclivity on the southern side of the town, and for its purpose is even superior to the race-course, preference being given to it for training horses destined to run in the most distant parts of England. The weekly consumption of oats by the horses, which are here during the greater part of the year, is estimated at 500 quarters. The races which take place during the year are seven in number, namely, the Craven meeting, on Easter-Monday; the two Spring meetings, which follow with one week's interval between each ; the July meeting ; and the three meetings in October, the last of which is the Houghton. The accommodations afforded by the hotels, inns, and coffee-houses is of the first class. Three plates are annually given by the king, and one under very curious conditions by the will of a Mr. Perram. The market-day is Tuesday. The fairs are held on Whit-Tuesday and on the 8th of November.
Newmarket consists of two parishes, All Saints and St Mary's. The former is in Cambridgeshire, and in 1831 its population was 714 ; the latter is in Suffolk, and its population in the same year was 2,134 : making a total of 2,848 persons. The living of All Saints is a perpetual curacy of £37 per annum ; that of St. Mary is a rectory, consolidated with the vicarage of Wood Ditton, which are together valued at £375, and are in the gift of the duke of Rutland. Both are in the diocese of Norwich.
The sum of £25 was formerly paid annually by the Exchequer to the parochial authorities, under a donation, as it is understood, of Queen Anne, for the support of charity schools at Newmarket, but it was withdrawn about three years ago. After deducting £8, 15 shillings for office-fees, the residue was equally divided between the master and mistress of the national school, who are appointed by the rector of St. Mary’s and whose duty it was to afford gratuitous instruction to 21 boys and the like number of girls. The school is now supported by voluntary contributions, and 72 boys and 53 girls are educated according to the principles of the established church ; the number on Sunday being increased to 91 boys and 85 girls.
The other charities of Newmarket, which are numerous, though of small amount, are mentioned in the 'Twenty second Report of the Charity Commissioners,' pp.173-5.