Nestled in Suffolk, Newmarket is one of horseracing’s most famous historic sites. According to a 1839 England guidebook, Newmarket’s most appealing attribute for sport was “its extensive and finely-turfed heath”. Fourteen miles from Cambridge, and on one of three good roads from London, it was a prime retreat for masculine pursuits of betting and horse racing.
Races were held seven times a year, beginning on the second Monday in April, two in the Spring, one in July and three in October. The town, having been established as a market town, was racked by fire in 1683 and after that saw the rebuild influenced by horse mad gentry. The guidebook tells us “There are also two excellent coffee-houses, for the accomodation of sporting gentlemen; several billiard and other rooms; two Churches, and several Meeting-houses.”
According to an 1832 illustrated book of Britain by Thomas Moulde, “The Long Course on Newmarket Heath is 7420 yard in length, and the Round Course 6640 yards long. An ordinary racer will go at the rate of one mile in two minutes.”
Newmarket was very much at the perview of the Ton, as the Farmer’s Magazine from 1835 (Turf Intelligence) tells us, “What are called the Newmarket horses are allowed to be of a first-rate description but beyond mere racing, the Newmarket Meetings possess no atttraction for holyday folks and therefore very thinly attended.”