Waterwitch House: The Newmarket site with a rich racing heritage

Basil Jarvis, who was born at Waterwitch House, pictured second right, at the bar at The Craven Club in Newmarket High Street where Cartwrights electrical shop is today
Basil Jarvis, who was born at Waterwitch House, pictured second right, at the bar at The Craven Club in Newmarket High Street where Cartwrights electrical shop is today

Waterwitch House, which occupies a prominent site at Exeter Road’s junction with Rayes Lane, is certainly not one of Newmarket’s architectural gems.

Few who walk or ride past it today give it a second glance but it stands on land once occupied by a stable run by the patriarch of a racing dynasty whose descendants were to weave themselves into the very fabric of Newmarket’s sporting heritage.

The original Waterwitch House as it looked in 1900 with trainer William Jarvis standing at the front with his youngest son, Jack, who was knighted for his services to horseracing in 1967.

The original Waterwitch House as it looked in 1900 with trainer William Jarvis standing at the front with his youngest son, Jack, who was knighted for his services to horseracing in 1967.

Born in 1852, William ‘Bill’ Jarvis first trained at Waterwitch House in the latter part of the 19th century. In 1892 he sent Bona Vista out to win the 2,000 Guineas and the following year would have won a Triple Crown with Ravensbury had a certain Isinglass not been around. In 1898 his Cyllene ran second in the Derby to Jeddah before winning the Gold Cup the following year.

Jarvis’s sister, Rosa, married Classic-winning trainer Jimmy Ryan and helped design Woodlands, which was built to accommodate her husband’s owners and later became the stables occupied by Tom Jones.

On September 16, 1884, at All Saints’ Church, Jarvis married 21-year-old Leonora Godding, daughter of trainer Jem Godding who, in 1863, was feted for having been responsible for reviving Newmarket’s fortunes.

It was that year Macaroni, who he trained at Palace House, won the Derby so exploding the long-held convention that the going at Headquarters was far too firm for horses to be properly trained on it.

Lads busy sweeping up the Middle Yard

Lads busy sweeping up the Middle Yard

The Derby win sent the town almost delirious with delight as it was saved as a training centre with Godding declaring if he could not train aDerby winner on the Limekilns he could not train one anywhere.

Godding did not live to see his daughter married but his racing genius was to flow through the blood of her sons, the first of whom, William ‘Rose’ Jarvis, named for his father’s principal patron, Sir Charles Rose, was born on June 21, 1885.

He became assistant to his uncle Jimmy Ryan and later trained at Hackness Villa in Exeter Road before being made Royal trainer to George V at Egerton House. He trained three Classic winners and married Isabel, the daughter of jockey Joseph Butters. Their son Ryan was named in memory of the son of Rosa and Jimmy Ryan who had died aged just 19 in the typhoid epidemic which swept Newmarket in 1895. They also had a daughter Bridget, who married jockey Bill Rickaby.

Ryan Jarvis went on to train at Phantom House in Newmarket where his son, William, still trains today. His daughter Jane is married to Jimmy George, a director of Tattersalls.

Trainer William Jarvis, centre left. with his wife, Leonora, and  their two eldest sons William and Basil, front, who both went on to train Classic winners

Trainer William Jarvis, centre left. with his wife, Leonora, and their two eldest sons William and Basil, front, who both went on to train Classic winners

Bill Jarvis’s second son Basil, born on October 23 1886, enjoyed Classic success with 1923 Derby winner Papyrus and trained for some of the sport’s best known owners at Green Lodge Stables including Sir Victor Sassoon and Marcel Boussac.

Three days after Christmas in 1887 Bill and Leonora Jarvis celebrated the birth of their third son, Jack, whose achievements made him the most celebrated of the couple’s offspring. Initially training at Warren House, in Old Station Road, he moved to Park Lodge, in Park Lane, in 1919 from where he sent Blue Peter out to win the 1939 2000 Guineas and Derby. The great horse was celebrated by Newmarket townsfolk who named the Spitfire they clubbed together to buy as part of the town’s war effort, after him.

Jack trained seven other Classic winners, including 1944 Derby victor Ocean Swell and also played a prominent part in the Newmarket community as a member of the county council. In 1967 he received a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours, the first trainer to do so.