Why an Epsom Derby winner is buried on a golf course in Sussex

Why is there an Epsom Derby winner buried in the middle of a golf course in Angmering?

Monday, 12th April 2021, 3:44 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th April 2021, 8:26 am

Many golfers and walkers may have seen the grave for Frederic dated 1837 – and even more so since it was recently completed cleared and restored by Ham Manor Golf Club members.

But how many know the story behind it, especially as there remains a complete mystery about the name?

David Parkinson, former chairman, said there had been a golf course at Ham Manor since 1935 but the site was steeped in history, with records dating back to the 11th century.

When Ham Manor was converted into a golf course, the Gratwicke's beautiful home became the clubhouse
When Ham Manor was converted into a golf course, the Gratwicke's beautiful home became the clubhouse

He said: “The grave of Frederic is close to one of our greens, so people know it is there, but it had all got overgrown, so two of us who were fed up with being in lockdown decided to renovate it.

“William Gratwicke used to live in what is now the clubhouse and the story is he put the grave there to be close to the house. It is quite prominent.

“I have been telling lots of people about its history and I have bought a little glass plaque.

“The name, though, is one of the mysteries. All the historical documents have it as Frederick, with a ‘k’ at the end, but the grave doesn’t. And it is the original headstone.”

David Parkinson and Jim Miller have restored the headstone, gravelled the area and constructed a wooden surround RwCnQae3dTy39JOngDQr

Squire William was well known and respected in racing circles in England – the Gratwicke Stakes are still run in his memory at Goodwood – and his horse Frederic won the Derby in 1829.

Mr Parkinson and Jim Miller have restored his headstone, gravelled the area around it and constructed a wooden surround. The glass plaque records the name of the owner and the jockey, Jim Forth, for posterity.

Neil Rogers-Davis, local historian, said: “Frederic(k) won at 40/1 but, ironically, I don’t think he ever won another race, before or after the Derby, unlike some other of Gratwicke’s successful horses, such as The Merry Monarch, which also won the Derby in 1845.

“The usual spelling of ‘Frederick’ is recorded in racing records and it is not known why the gravestone states ‘Frederic’. Perhaps the stonemason miscalculated and ran out of space?”

The grave dated 1837 had become overgrown and delapidated

On Neil’s Angmering Village Life website, he says the racing stables were situated at Michelgrove, about three miles to the north of Angmering village.

He describes Frederic as a rank outsider and says he won for Gratwicke £2,650 in prize money, which equates to about £110,000 in today’s values.

“John Forth was alleged to be 60 years of age when he rode Frederick, and still holds the record for being the oldest jockey of a Derby winner.”

The Manor of Hame was one of five parishes of Angmering in the 11th century, the others being Barpham, Ecclesden, East Angmering and West Angmering.

The land was initially a manor in its own right, adjoining tenanted properties that formed a small village. The original manor house was built in 1570 and became home to the Gratwicke family, who managed to acquire the entirety of Ham as a single estate over the following 300 years.

In the 1830s, the current manor house was built to designs by Henry Harrison, which included neoclassical elements such as the stuccoed east front.

After the death of William Gratwicke in 1862, residents of Ham Manor included Henry Aubrey-Fletcher, a Deputy Lieutenant of Sussex, and F.G Savill of the Shaw Savill Steamship Line.

When Ham Manor was converted into a golf course, the beautiful building becoming the clubhouse. During the construction of the course, remains of a Roman building were discovered, thought to be because the site lies next to Angmering Roman Villa.

During the Second World War, there was a sustained attack on Poling Radar Station in 1940 and a German aircraft crash landed on Ham Manor Golf Course. One pilot, Willi Geiger, died of his injuries, and the other, Kurt Schweinhardt, was taken prisoner. The plane was left on the course overnight and had been stripped by souvenir hunters by the morning.

Today, the 18th century staircase of the clubhouse is the backdrop to many special wedding day photos and the Harry Colt designed course welcomes golf players from all over the world.

The club is proud that the history of this glorious site is treasured, while it continues to be a sporting destination for modern golfers.