Celebrating 350 years of Newmarket

23rd March 2016


If you've taken a stroll down Newmarket's high street recently, you'll have seen the beautiful banners adorning each lamppost - inviting you all to participate in the biggest party the town has ever seen. Velvet has an exclusive preview of what's going on behind the scenes, and trust us when we say that it's going to be a party you won't want to miss.

2016 marks 350 years of making history, a key anniversary that celebrates the Home of Horseracing. Newmarket Racecourses, as well as other stakeholders in the town, are taking huge steps to get as many people involved as possible. With an exciting and varied programme of events running alongside the packed race and entertainment calendar, we're in for a treat as everyone from the local primary schools to the neighbouring businesses and racing royalty are participating in the big bash.

"This year presents us with a big opportunity to tell the story of horseracing and to celebrate this fantastic anniversary as a town, as well as securing our heritage for future generations" Olivia Hills, Communications Manager, at the Racecourses said.

The town will be using this important anniversary as an opportunity to share how racing has shaped our region for over three centuries - as well as getting people excited about what the future holds for this unique part of the world.

With everything from a 350-strong mass selfie on Newmarket's Heath to a Duxford fly-over and a town carnival, there's something for everyone to enjoy. There will be unmissable competitions, a special running of the Town Plate, and free tours from Discover Newmarket - and that's all before the opening of the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art.

There will be key events happening in the town throughout the year, with proceedings kicking off in a big way at April's Craven Meeting and QIPCO Guineas Festival. Stay up to date with all of the goings on throughout the year by visiting www.newmarket350.co.uk

Submit your own Newmarket memory by visiting www.newmarket350.co.uk/my-story for the chance to receive two free Grandstand tickets to Autumn Ladies Day on Friday 7th October. Terms and conditions apply.

350 years of marking history

Newmarket Racecourses, alongside the town, is celebrating a monumental anniversary this year as 2016 marks 350 years of making history. Based around the establishment of modern and organised horseracing there is plenty of rich heritage to honour and share throughout the year.

Amy Starkey, Regional Director, Jockey Club Racecourses East Region, said: "This year signifies an important achievement; one that we share with the whole community. Newmarket's racing heritage is of international significance, and with the world's spotlight upon us, we'll be marking this unique occasion with a series of special events and initiatives that involve the wider community, thus securing our legacy for future generations."

The History

The return of King Charles II in March 1666 to his boyhood haunts on the Heath and the opening of the Round Course beyond the Ditch, from which the Adnams July Course is descended, are key events that will be marked during our celebrations.

Before the Civil War racing at Newmarket had been a fairly secondary activity under James I and his son Charles I with hunting or coursing hare and falconry seemingly the principal outdoor activities during the Court's biannual holidays. These were largely winter visits but after the Restoration of 1660, Charles's appearances from 1666 were normally in spring and autumn with racing at the centre stage. The 20 years to his death in 1685 is really the Golden Age which laid the base for Newmarket's later pre-eminence.

While good horses were almost all bred in Yorkshire following the destruction of the Royal Studs after the Civil War, the Heath and the Royal Court provided the stage and the money needed to convert what had historically been mainly a local sport into a national, and eventually international, one. Yorkshire played a crucial part in the early days of the sport and by the eighteenth century developed the thoroughbred as a separate breed but it is Newmarket Heath and its financial backing via the Court that provided the launching pad for racing's future.

Not only the sport, but also to some degree the Jockey Club, can trace its roots to the like-minded courtiers that gathered round Charles II in 1666. It slowly emerged to fill the vacuum that arose when the Stuarts (who were all keen) were followed by the Hanoverians in 1714 who initially were not as keen until they too developed an affection for racing after 1750.

The Club is first mentioned by name in 1729 and its early members (like the Dukes of Devonshire and Bolton, Earls Gower and Godolphin and others) had filled comparable Court roles under the Stuarts. It is no coincidence that the Roger Williams who ran the Coffee House in St. James's, which was the Club's base in the 1720s and 1730s, was referred to in his obituary in 1747 as 'Clerk of the Course at Newmarket'.

In the 40 years before the Commonwealth period resulted in all racing ceasing, we only know any details at all of three races on the Heath and after the Restoration only one more before 1666. Yet in March that year with the King's return six races have proper records. So 1666 saw much to celebrate:

- The return of the King and his Court to the Heath after 25 years, with a greater emphasis on racing
- The first races on the Round Course beyond the Ditch, part of which now forms the July Course
- The first race meeting on the Heath where we know the details of more than a single race, with no less that eight recorded
- The real beginning of Newmarker's claims to be racing's Headquarters, based on the money and the enthusiasm of the Restoration Court
- A hazier claim to seeing the origins of the Jockey Club in King Charles' Court

The Celebrations

Throughout the 39 fixtures staged at the two Racecourses, different elements of the 350 anniversary will be celebrated, telling the story and highlighting our impressive lineage at every opportunity.

Starting at the traditional season curtain raiser, the first day of the three day Craven Meeting from Tuesday, 12th to Thursday, 14th April - we will host free racing for all Suffolk and Cambridgeshire residents. The first 350 bookers possessing a CB8 postcode will also be offered the chance to register for a FREE Discover Newmarket tour ahead of racing on the Tuesday too.

The QIPCO Guineas Festival, Newmarket's spring season highlight on the Rowley Mile Racecourse, will be the official launch for 350 years of making history. Featuring the first two Classic races of the year, the QIPCO 2000 and 1000 Guineas on Saturday, 30th April and Sunday, 1st May respectively, the QIPCO Guineas Festival is a key date in the international horseracing calendar which sees over 30,000 racegoers visit the Rowley Mile over the two days. This iconic Festival provides the perfect launch for 350 including Family themed entertainment in line with May Day celebrations on the Sunday. Launch plans currently include the opening of a time capsule along with other key events during the Festival, which help convey the story of this amazing heritage.

The Town Plate is Newmarket Racecourses' oldest race, dating from at least 1720 (and probably well before). This makes it an excellent centrepiece to celebrate our 350th year of making history through its running. Moving to a new slot in the racing calendar, the Town Plate will take place on Thursday, 7th July, the first day of the Moët & Chandon July Festival. The week still staged on some of the "Round Course" that was used over 350 years ago. As Newmarket's summer highlight, the Moët & Chandon July Festival features some of the best that summer has to offer alongside some of the best quality horseracing at the picturesque Adnams July Course.

Returning to the Rowley Mile for the autumn season in September, racing opens with the first day of Newmarket Open Weekend including an afternoon of racing on Saturday, 17th September. Attracting visitors from far and wide, Newmarket Open Weekend provides a fantastic opportunity to access behind the scenes of the Home of Horseracing. Tinted with the theme of 350, visitors are exposed to the importance Newmarket has had in the development of this fascinating industry.

Newmarket Racecourses' highlight of the autumn is Dubai Future Champions Festival taking place on Friday, 7th and Saturday, 8th October. Following on from its highly successful inception as a two day Festival last year, Dubai Future Champions Festival will be the official closing ceremony of the 350 celebrations and will include activities such as closing the time capsule.

Other key activities
- The interactive 350 campaign microsite, with ability to submit and share your own memories of Newmarket
- The specially commissioned statue of King Charles II, to be unveiled at the Moët & Chandon July Festival (subject to production)
- A year-long social media campaign using the #weare350
- Limited edition 350-themed merchandise
- Rejuvenation of Newmarket train station
- Exclusive Emma Bridgewater mug, available through the National Horseracing Museum
- A 350 History Quiz in the Memorial Hall, organised by the Town Council
- Themed Tea Dances and Town Film organised by the Town Council
- Unveiling of a new statue of Her Majesty the Queen at the top of the Rowley Mile driveway