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Fred Archer, Newmarket

Hamilton Stud Lane in Newmarket is reputed to be haunted by the champion Victorian jockey Fred Archer who is seen sat astride a grey horse. Frederick James Archer was born in Cheltenham on 11 January 1857, son of Grand National winning jockey William Archer. Following in his father’s footsteps he began an apprenticeship at age 11 with Mathew Dawson a horse trainer and worked as a stable jockey. He won his race aged 12 (a steeplechase in Bangor-on-Dee) and was Champion Jockey for thirteen consecutive years between 1874 and his untimely suicide in 1886. At the time of his death he had won 2748 of the 8084 races he had ridden, a remarkable feat for a man the size of Archer.

Fred was 5’ 10” and struggled daily to keep his weight down to around 8st 6lb, a diet which eventually developed into an eating disorder. Fred had married Helen Rose Dawson daughter of Mathew Dawson and was devastated when their first child died at an early age. Helen then died herself in 1884 during the birth of their second child, sending Archer deeper into a spiral of depression. On 8 November 1886, depressed and delirious as he was suffering from a fever possibly related to his eating disorder, Fred Archer shot himself. He was only 29 years old. The gun he used is held in the National Horseracing Museum, Newmarket.

Shortly after his death his apparition was encountered by a woman and her daughter on Hamilton Stud Lane, a ghost which is said to have been reported since on several occasions. His ghost is also said to haunt the heath and has been blamed for a few racing mishaps at the Newmarket Racecourse.

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