The Carlton HotelThis page is dedicated to that iconic structure that used to dominate the High Street, The Carlton Hotel. This will very much be a work in progress that I hope will build into an interesting insight to this building and its people. I welcome contributions, that will be attributed to the source if they wish or not depending on the information supplied.
Taken from an article in the Newmarket Journal by Alison Hayes 16th July 2009 Saturday Morning Snooker
The Carlton Hotel,
a photograph taken just months before
it was demolished and replaced by
the building that is now Boots.
KING EDWARD VII dined there, Fred Astaire danced there and countless US servicemen had far too much to drink there – the Carlton Hotel was a feature of Newmarket High Street for more than 100 years. By the time it was demolished in 1977, much of the old grandeur was long gone, but in its heyday the Carlton had been as exclusive as London's Dorchester, built to appeal to wealthy racehorse owners and top jockeys.
It is thought to have been built in the 1860s and started life as The Greyhound Hotel. It was partially built around a steel frame with concrete infilling and was reputed to have been one of the earliest examples of that type of construction. Its ornate Victorian front, with a balcony at first floor level rising four floors to a domed mansard roof, is the way most Newmarket people who knew the Carlton will remember it. As the Greyhound it saw many grand occasions, including balls to celebrate the Derby wins of the country's most celebrated jockeys Fred Archer, who lived in Newmarket until his suicide in 1886.
In 1897, the Greyhound became the Victoria Hotel, probably to coincide with the Queen's Diamond Jubilee . A directory published in 1900 described some of its features, which included Turkish baths, winter gardens and bijou theatre. The hotel had 70 bedrooms, 12 large self contained apartments, two large bars, a ballroom and a restaurant. Its staircase was of Purbeck marble. The total floor area of the building was 45,000 square feet - no wonder people claimed at the time you could quite easily get lost in its maze of corridors.
Its ballroom was a big attraction and by far the most famous feet to trip round its polished floor belonged to Hollywood legend Fred Astaire. At the time the hotel was demolished, Cecil Coates, who had been its general manager between 1933 and 1946 remembered the visits of the dancing genius. "Fred was a member of the Craven Club which had its headquarters in the hotel He was on stage in London at the time - around 1924 and he came to Newmarket frequently as he had horses in training with the late Jack Leach. “I know for a fact that Fred danced on the Craven Club mantelpiece for a £5 bet,” he said.
The arrival of American troops in East Anglia during the Second World War brought wild times to the Victoria, with military police virtually a permanent fixture outside as the GIs got drunk and fought with themselves and some of the locals. And such were the fears that an invasion was imminent that members of a Scottish regiment were seen dancing in the ballroom with their rifles on their backs ready to repel any invaders.
When Newmarket High Street was targeted by a German bomber in February 1941, the Victoria, the most prominent building in sight, freakishly escaped any damage. A story circulated in the town that a German spy had transmitted messages to headquarters from the fish shop in nearby Market Street and that the hotel with its Forces lodgers and the Memorial Hall, where top military brass had been meeting on the day of the attack, should have been bomber’s targets but other buildings in the High Street were hit instead including the post office which then stood between the two.
The Victoria Hotel eventually became the Carlton which continued to be a centre of town entertainment through the 1950s. Newmarket Jazz Club met there regularly and some of the biggest names of the genre played there including Chris Barber, Acker Bilk, Kenny Lynch and Humphrey Lyttleton.
By the early 1960s financial problems were starting to mount and by 1965 the official receiver had been called in to try and sell the hotel. In 1967 an asking price of £55,000 was agreed. A number of deals were discussed but none came to fruition
In 1973 it was confirmed that film magnate and millionaire Irving Allen had bought the Carlton for a reputed £100,000 and there seemed a chance that it might be restored to its former glory. Tenants of the flats in the hotel were told to leave because the building was in such a bad state of repair but a year later nothing had happened and the site was again on the market. Mr Allen’s plans to try and bring back the glory days appeared to have floundered because they were uneconomic.
It was eventually sold to a Peterborough based property company for around £60,000 in 1977. Permission to demolish the hotel and replace it with shops had already been granted by Forest Heath Council and the task of flattening Newmarket High Street’s most iconic building was completed by early May 1977. In its place came chemists Boots with the remainder of the site sold off for the development of the Rookery. Such was the end of the Carlton, a building that had dominated Newmarket High Street for as long as many could remember.
One regular remembered: “The Carlton was more than a building; it was a kind of crossroads of ideas, lifestyles and happenings where people met and felt enriched by being or having been there
Someone made a fortune from the walls of the three giant fridges/cold rooms in the cellars, they were made of lead some say so thick they must have been cast in place
The bailiffs had reason to visit a long term resident to collect a debt. He had taken to his bed and refused to leave so they seized his bed with him in it and carried down and out onto the High Street. There is no record of what happened next.
American service men jumped from the balcony into the fountain in the winter garden. However on occasion, they were thrown during the occasional fracas.