History of The Jockey Club Rooms
Located on the High Street in the centre of the town known as ‘HQ’, The Jockey Club Rooms have been at the heart of British racing for over 250 years. A body of influence and a source of sustained investment in racing over a period spanning four centuries, The Jockey Club as an organisation is known worldwide. In the course of serving the sport, The Club and its members, like Government and its politicians, have become accustomed to having their decisions and policies scrutinised by an inquisitive media and public.
Indeed, there are records to show that at least six Prime Ministers were also members of The Jockey Club and for much of the Club’s existence many of its members divided their time between Parliament and conducting racing’s affairs from The Rooms, some arguably spending more time on the latter when it may have been considered prudent to be doing the former! However, throughout all of the peaks and troughs enjoyed and endured by racing and The Jockey Club over the past 250 years, The Rooms, set back from an invariably busy Newmarket High Street, have retained a degree of mystique.
Founded in the middle of the eighteenth century the Jockey Club was originally a social club aiming to promote good fellowship among racing and thoroughbred breeding enthusiasts. Their main meeting place was the Star and Garter in Pall Mall although they also frequented other taverns of the time, in St James’s Street and Hyde Park. As the members included some of the most influential men of their day, over time The Jockey Club acquired authority and prestige, eventually evolving into the ruling body of British racing. In 1752 The Jockey Club leased a plot of land in Newmarket where a Coffee House was constructed as a meeting place for the Club’s members. No doubt it would have followed the pattern of the London coffee houses, which had already been popular establishments for more than half a century. On the expiration of the lease, The Jockey Club bought the freehold, which is known today as ‘The Jockey Club Rooms’.
Over the years the buildings have grown as the result of a series of additions to the original Coffee Room. In 1933 the front part of the premises was rebuilt to a design by Sir Albert Richardson. The Coffee Room was incorporated into this design, however soon after completion the back quarters were gutted by fire. The buildings were reconstructed, again to a design by Sir Albert, and the arrangement of rooms and attractive High Street frontage remain unchanged to this day.
To learn more about the history of The Jockey Club Rooms, you can order a copy of the book, The Jockey Club Rooms, A Catalogue and History of the Collection by David Oldrey – Former Deputy Senior Steward. Historic tours of The Rooms and its art collection can also be arranged, by appointment, for groups of 20 or more. These fascinating tours, which include humorous tales of the rich and famous racing gentry, last approximately 1 ½ hours and can be arranged to include lunch, dinner or afternoon tea. Call our team on 01638 663101 or click here to find out more.