Back in the day: Remnants of a bygone age in Newmarket's memorial hall gardens
Barely noticeable in what today is the town’s most popular venue for children and families is evidence of its former life as a successful racing stable.
The town’s memorial hall and gardens stand on a site once occupied by the Lowther House residence of trainer Frederick ‘Bushranger’ Day who was born in 1856 and got his nickname after spending time in Australia as a young man where he was veterinary adviser to the Governor General of New South Wales. He practised as a vet in Newmarket until he started to train racehorses.
He was based at Lowther House where he trained for Sir Ernest Cassel. Born the son of a Jewish money lender in Cologne, Cassel was a financial wizard and was so successful he was a multi-millionaire by the time he was 40 and by 1896 had become financial adviser and close friend to the Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII.
Mr Day trained Airs and Graces to win the Oaks in 1898 and three years later landed a Classic winner for his main patron, Sir Ernest, when Handicapper won the 2000 Guineas of 1901.
In 1904 Mr Day bought Terrace House and stables in the High Street, now used as offices by Tattersalls. He was to move there in 1911 after Sir Ernest announced Lowther House and its yards were to be demolished to make way for a town hall built to commemorate the life of the king who had so loved the town and its racing.
Today evidence that the Lowther House and adjoining Cavendish House yards once stood on the spot is still visible. On the wall along the western side of the gardens behind the hall can be seen the rings to which horses would have been tethered by rack chains when it was the inside wall of a range of boxes in the Lowther House yard.
In 1900 Mr Day’s son Reg had first started training for Lord D’Abernon at Exeter House Stables in Exeter Road.
He was just 17 at the time with licences not required in those days.
Shortly after 1906 Reg went to Germany to train for the Kaiser and won the German Derby in 1909, 1910 and 1912. He then returned to Newmarket to take over from his father at Terrace House. There he enjoyed a number of big successes, notably with Solario, winner of the 1925 St Leger, the Coronation Cup and the Ascot Gold Cup. And later in 1961 he won the 1,000 Guineas and the Oaks with Sweet Solera.
Following his retirement at the end of 1968 he devoted himself to the management of the town’s Hamilton Stud, of which he had been the lessee for some years.
In 1903 Sir Ernest Cassel, who has a room named after him in the memorial hall, moved his string to the Moulton Paddocks Estate. Like others of German origin he suffered a degree of hostility during the First World War and by the time the conflict ended he was an aging, disillusioned man in failing health. In his final years he was nursed by his favourite granddaughter, Edwina, who inherited much of his £7.5 million estate and in 1922 married Lord Louis Mountbatten.