THE WAY WE WERE
BHP meant little with few cars moving in Britain’s horseracing capital almost 50 years ago
Nick Larkin takes you to Newmarket in 1967. There's a horse race on – meaning local traffic is stuck in a rut.
Whether your car would have been considered a thoroughbred or a slogging old carthorse, it wouldn’t have been moving too quickly in this busy scene from Britain’s horse racing capital of Newmarket. It’s spring 1967, and the traffic has taken over the town centre.
Judging by the fact that most of the cars have multiple occupants there could have been a race happening, or maybe people were keen visit the new premises of the National Stud, opened by Her Majesty The Queen this year. This was (and still is) Britain’s racehorse breeding Mecca and not a film comedy starring Leslie Phillips or Robin Asquith.
Newmarket has been home to horseracing since the 15th century, when King Charles II is known to have competed there. The town grew rapidly and even today horses are its heart. In 1967, Newmarket was well known for its traffic problems, the main A11 Norwich to London road passing through the town centre before this was bypassed in 1975.
So, to the traffic selection here, and some real gems. At the rightful head of the queue, creeping towards us, is a Morris Eight Series E, a model built between 1938 and 1948 and an excellent small car of its era. We’d rather hoped that HXV 251 might be listed on the DVLA website as a survivor, as the car looks to be in excellent order, but this is sadly not the case. The Morris’ 918cc sidevalve engine was a sturdy unit but might not have been enjoying stuck in a queue in hot weather. Note the double yellow lines beginning next to the car – these would have been relatively new, legislation allowing them having only been introduced in 1960.
Behind the Morris are no less than three Fords in quick succession, beginning with a 100E Anglia or Prefect, a Consul and finally a 105E Anglia. Then we go back to sidevalve power with a Morris Oxford MO and another Ford, a 100E Anglia, with its numberplate sportily applied to its bonnet.
On the right of the picture is, behind the bicycle, a trusty Cambridgeshire-registered Morris Minor van, presumably owned by a local business. You’ve got to admire the slick use of Brylcreem or similar by the gentleman about to walk past it.
Behind them, and another bike, is a true gem, a London-registered Daimler, we think a DB18. Sadly FGU 777 is another non-survivor, but at least it lives on in this picture. We’re intrigued by the bonnet mascot. Did it incorporate a flag for official duties?
Crossing the road, another Morris 1000 van can be seen, this time heading away from us. In front of this is the vehicle that has caused more intrigue. That looks like a Wolseley rear badge but we’re stuck, as the bootlid is definitely not from a car of that marque. Perhaps it came from another vehicle?
Another Morris Minor is next in line, with a Ford Anglia 105E ahead, hopefully not about to hit the pushchair being propelled in front of it.
An Austin Westminster or Wolseley 6/110 is next, and in action further along the road, behind the Plaxton-bodied coach, is a ‘sit-up-and-beg’ Ford Popular 103E, its sidevalve notes echoing past the soft Suffolk burr (possibly) of the market traders.
Further up the road we can see the rear outline of an Austin A30/A35 van along with a Duple-bodied coach. Moving across the road one last time, a Riley 1.5 and a BMC Farina are heading our way.
The hotel visible with the Belisha beacon outside it is the Rutland Arms, still going strong today.
The awning next to the Daimler on the right of the picture belonged to local electrical shop Cartwright Bros, established in 1929 and also still with us. Director Gary Cartwright tells us that Wigg’s the jewellers, just down the road from the hotel, is still trading too, though the local butchers is now a Nationwide Building Society branch.
‘The traffic wouldn’t be as busy today as in this picture, unless it’s a race day,’ he believes.
It’s certainly a good contrasting selection of vehicles. Many people tend to think the introduction of the MoT test in the early 1960s banished all pre- and early post-war cars in regular use to the crusher. This was obviously not the case, though less-than-wonderful rustproofing would have meant some newer cars being scrapped from April 1967. Then, vehicles had to be tested when they were three years old, as opposed to 10 previously. It’s a shame that so few of vehicles here survived.
‘Rustproofing was less than wonderful...’