Discover the History of Newmarket Palace from the 13th century to the Present Day.
Founding of Newmarket on the route of the Icknield Way, an ancient travellers’ route across the Cambridgeshire Chalk Plain from Wiltshire to Norfolk. Archaeological evidence shows use of the Way back to pre-historic times, Iceni, Roman occupation, Anglo-Saxons and up to the Medieval Period. The route passes in front of All Saints church along what is now Palace Street.
King Henry III (1207-1272) grants Sir Richard of Argentein the right to hold a yearly fair and weekly market (i.e., a new market) giving the town its name.
James I (1556-1625) stays at Newmarket during the progress of his court into Norfolk. Recognising the open land of the Heath as perfect for favourite pastimes like hunting, hawking, hare coursing and racing horses he builds a palace complex in stages close to the present Jockey Club Rooms on the High Street.
Inigo Jones (1573-1652), England’s foremost architect of the period, makes a series of drawings for new buildings at Newmarket Palace, including the Prince’s Lodgings on the High Street. His most famous building, the Banqueting House on Whitehall, displays the painted ceilings of Sir Peter Paul Rubens who is reputed to have been knighted at Newmarket.
The first recorded race at Newmarket takes place on the Heath as a match race for £100 (approximately £13,000 today) between horses owned by Lord Salisbury, the winner, and George Villiers, Marquess of Buckingham and King’s Master of the Horse.
Charles I (1600-1649) and his Court visit Newmarket regularly. The town remains Royalist throughout the English Civil War and the King is a prisoner here for ten days following his capture in June 1647. After his 30 January 1649 execution a complete survey is made of the palace which is then sold and left to decay during the Interregnum (1649-1660).
Charles II (1630-1685) is restored to the throne in 1660 and returns to Newmarket six years later, his first visit since spending much time here as a child. Given his passionate support for horseracing six recorded match races take place during the visit. The King founds the Round Course part of which is still used today as the July Course.
Charles II buys additional land east of High Street in order to construct a new palace to the designs of William Samwell. His private quarters, including his bedroom, survive as Palace House. He houses his mistress, Nell Gwynn, in a small house nearby which survives on Palace Street.
The Great Fire of Newmarket erupts in stables near St. Mary’s Church causing the King and his brother, the Duke of York, to leave town early. Their early departure thwarts the Rye House Plot to assassinate them. The King visits Newmarket for the last time in 1684, a year before his death.
William III (1650-1702) appoints Tregonwell Frampton (1641-1728) as Keeper of the Running Horses at Newmarket. Known as the ‘Father of the Turf,’ Frampton holds the post under four consecutive monarchs.
Queen Anne (1665-1714) visits Newmarket Palace regularly and is an enthusiastic supporter of racing. Races at this time are usually four miles with the winner receiving a gold cup. The cup presented by Queen Anne in 1706 sells for £223,750 in 2001.
The modern incarnation of the Jockey Club is founded and members gather at the Palace for evening entertainments like cards and dice. The Club’s first royal member, William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland and second son of George II, visits for the first time in 1753 and stays at the Palace occasionally.
An inventory of the Palace is made before the arrival of George, Prince of Wales and later George IV. A great supporter of the sport his horses run for the first time at Newmarket in 1784.
The part of Newmarket Palace formerly housing the Lord Chamberlain’s lodgings on the High Street is demolished in 1814. The Crown sells the land in 1819. Trainer William Edwards uses King Charles II’s stables and on 3 May 1838 Barcarolle wins the 1000 Guineas to become the first English Classic winner from Palace House.
The Crown sells Palace House and stables to Baron Mayer de Rothschild (1818-1874) who re-energises Newmarket as a major training centre. Trainer James Godding retires in 1863 after Macaroni becomes the first Newmarket-trained winner of the Derby since 1844. Built for succeeding trainer Joseph Hayhoe, Trainer’s House now houses the museum and shop. Rothschild erects new stables in what is now the King’s Yard.
Architect George Devey is engaged to design alterations to Palace House, including the addition of a dining room and second floor. Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917) makes further changes comprising three additional bedrooms and a bathroom to the north by architect Holland of Newmarket and additional service rooms west of the kitchens.
Trained by Alfred Hayhoe at Palace House, St Frusquin wins the 2000 Guineas at Newmarket for Leopold de Rothschild (1845-1917) before being beaten by the Prince of Wales’s Persimmon by a neck in the Derby. St Frusquin’s son, St Amant, also trained at Palace House, wins the Derby in 1904.
The Rothschild Yard and stables constructed.
Pillion, owned by Anthony De Rothschild (1887-1961), becomes the last horse trained at Palace House to win an English Classic, the 1000 Guineas.
Trainer John ‘Jack’ Jarvis (1887-1968) uses the stables as his second yard in conjunction with Park Lodge.
Palace House is requisitioned for use as an Officer’s Mess during the Second World War with the racetrack used as a key RAF base for Bomber Command. Presented to the Jockey Club post-war by Anthony de Rothschild to host royal visitors it proves prohibitively expensive and is returned.
C. H. ‘Harry’ Jellis uses Palace House stables to train privately for Dorothy Paget while also acting as assistant trainer to Jack Jarvis. From 1954 the stables revert to Jarvis who is knighted in 1967.
Bruce Hobbs moves into Palace House as the last trainer to occupy the stables. He trains 48 group winners and Tyrnavos wins the Irish Derby in 1980, making him the last classic winner trained at the stable. Following his departure, the Rothschild family sells the yard which remains empty.
1965 – 1985
Fire results in the loss of most of the internal decorative features in the Trainer’s House. Council installs a temporary roof and rainwater fittings to make the building water tight. Later findings of dry rot result in replacement of the stable roofs in 1995-96 and the Trainer’s House roof in 2003.
Supported by English Heritage, Forest Heath District Council (FHDC) acquires Palace House by compulsory purchase order to save it from further deterioration and unsympathetic restoration. A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and support from English Heritage enables the restoration of Palace House by Freeland Rees Roberts Architects with later 19th century additions being removed.
FHDC resolves to set up the Home of Horseracing Trust as an independent charitable trust to co-ordinate fundraising for the redevelopment project.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II formally opens the museum on 3 November.