The Kings Arms Inn, Prestbury
Champion jockey Fred Archer grew up at The Kings Arms as his father was the landlord there between 1861 and 1873. Prior to this his mother’s father was the landlord. Archer is associated with haunting Newmarket Racecourse and possibly around The Kings Arms which is now a carvery. In 1970 on the evening of the Cheltenham Gold Cup (which was won by L’Escargot), four women stood outside The Kings Arms reported seeing a man dressed as a jockey waiting to cross the road. After he started cross the road, he vanished half way over. 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.