Aldcroft, Tommy

1835 - 1883
Tommy was born in Manchester. His father owned an omnibus company but chain-smoking Tommy had more fanciful dreams. His opportunity came when, under a cloud,
stable jockey Thomas Lye left the Middleham establishment of trainer Thomas Dawson. Succeeding Lye, he won the 1856 Derby by a neck on 20/1 shot 
Ellington (in the slowest Derby time ever, 3.05 minutes).

Rumour had it that Tommy weighed out for his ride on Ellington with a whip weighing seven pounds which, before mounting, he switched for a virtually weightless one, thereby giving him a seven pound allowance. Having won the race, he switched back to the heavier whip in order to draw the correct weight.

Tommy was the first choice jockey of the eccentric and quarrelsome owner Lord Glasgow, but they constantly rowed: matters came to a head when Glasgow without justification accused Tommy of being in the pocket of bookmaker John Jackson. Tommy, disillusioned, quit racing and retired to his Newmarket home, where his wife, Jane, looked after him as best she could.

Joseph Lawson, who trained at Bedford Lodge stables, tried to tempt Tommy back into racing, offering him the ride on the much-fancied Miss Foote, but Tommy’s nerve and self-esteem had gone and he was unable to mount a horse. With finely chiselled features between black, bushy side-whiskers, the handsome jockey had once been considered a bit of a dandy – now, as the effect of years of heavy smoking took its toll, Tommy was a shadow of his former self.

After a protracted illness, he passed away, aged 48, on 4th May 1883.


When Lord Glasgow died in 1869, he acknowledged that he had been wrong about Tommy’s involvement with a bookmaker. As a makepeace gesture, he left Tommy £500 in his will.

Tommy and Lord Glasgow had the oddest relationship – their frequent rows were often described as resembling lovers’ quarrels.  

When something went wrong or he was out of favour, Tommy would weep. On seeing this, Lord Glasgow himself would also burst into tears.

Mutual friends found the situation bizarre and tried unsuccessfully to put an end to the constant falling-outs.


Unsurprisingly, Lord Glasgow had absolutely no sense of humour. When 

walking through the stables of Mr J Godding, who trained for him, Lord 

Glasgow came across a fine-looking horse which he took a great fancy to

 and inquired all about him.

Godding gave him details of the horse’s breeding before adding: “It’s a 

curious thing, but the owner has never seen him although he only lives 

four miles from here.

I should certainly have thought a gentleman would come on such a short journey to see such a good-looking horse belonging to him,” replied Glasgow.

“Yes,” said Godding, “but you see, my lord, the owner was born blind.

So annoyed was Glasgow at his trainer playing a joke at his expense, he instantly removed all his horses from Godding’s stable.

Lord Glasgow only saw horses from a profit-making point of view and would have a regular shooting day after he had tried his two-year-olds. Those which were not good enough were ruthlessly dispatched on the spot with a bullet through their head.

Glasgow once ordered the colt Musket to be destroyed after a moderate gallop. Jockey Tom Chaloner pleaded for the youngster’s life and Glasgow gave in. The horse survived, and showed its appreciation by winning the 1870 Ascot Stakes and the 1872 Alexandra Plate, both times with Tom in the saddle.

On another occasion, whilst dining at a hotel, a waiter annoyed him by answering very abruptly. Lord Glasgow promptly picked him up and threw him out of the first-floor window, breaking the waiter’s leg.

Glasgow then turned round quietly and said, “put him on the bill.

Lord Glasgow, always meanly and coldly dressed, had been brought up at sea, and had a Spartan discipline rooted into his system. As a young man he had fallen from a ship’s mast, fracturing a portion of one of the vertebrae of his neck.

From then on he suffered the most excruciating pain whenever he turned his head. He consequently always stood with his hands at the back of his neck, digging the ends of his fingers into his neck so as to press the nerve and lessen the pain.

Paradoxically, Lord Glasgow was incredibly generous, once feeding half the town of Paisley in a time of distress.

Tommy Aldcroft’s classic wins:


2,000 Guineas: Lord of the Isles (April 24, 1855and General Peel (April 26,1864).

1,000 Guineas: Sagitta (April 24, 1860)

The Derby: Ellington (May 28,1856)

The Oaks: Queen Bertha  (May 22, 1863)

St Leger: Gamester (September 14,1859)

Two Thousand Guineas winner General Peel had been available at 20/1 on April 14th -  on race day,  April 26th, the horse won at 7/2 having been heavily backed for nearly a fortnight.

Newspaper Cutting (Newmarket Journal) 12/5/1883:
'Death Of Mr T. Aldcroft.
The announcement of the death of one of the most famous of the old school of jockeys, Mr Tom Aldcroft, at his residence, Grafton-house, High-street, on Friday, did not come much in the nature of a surprise to those who were acquainted with his serious illness of some months' duration. Though a stranger to the saddle for a number of years, the career and brilliant achievements of the once famous jockey will be "familiar in their mouths as household words" with the racing fraternity. Commencing his turf connections as an apprentice in the training establishment of the late Mr Tom Dawson, he rode his greatest and finest race as early as 1855, when in his twentieth year, securing a dashing victory with St. Hubert in the Two Thousand Guineas. Aldcroft won the "blue riband" of the Turf when a young jockey, placing the Derby of '58 to the credit of Admiral Harcourt's Ellington, following these good beginnings up by steering Gamester to winning brackets in the St. Leger of '59 for Sir Charles Monck. Another classic event, in the Oaks, was "pulled out of the fire" by him on Queen Bertha in 1863. In 1864 he secured the Two Thousand Guineas Stakes for the second time, for his most prominent patron, Lord Glasgow, his mount being the son of Young Melbourne - General Peel. In the latter years of his jockeyhood, Aldcroft's most frequent and popular victories were ridden in the "white and red sleeves," the colours of Lord Glasgow, who, though the eccentric Earl at times was at variance with his favourite jockey, ultimately gave him a competence during his own life. Enjoying the reputation of an unsurpassed rider of two-year-olds, the deceased jockey was very popular and respected among a large circle of racing and private friends, by whom his genial presence and cheery greeting will be missed.
The remains of the brilliant rider and respected resident were interred in the Cemetery on Tuesday morning, the rector, the Rev. J. Imrie, impressively conducting the service. Fixed for the early hour of eleven, doubtless on account of its being a race week, the funeral was influentially and numerously attended, tokens of respect to the memory of the deceased being paid on the route of the procession, many of the blinds of the private houses being drawn. The chief mourners were the bereaved widow and the brother-in-law of deceased, Mr Davis, and among the large company which followed the cortege were: The Revs. J.T. Wilder, rector of Great Bradley, and S.S. Knipe, chaplain of the Union Workhouse, Exning, and Mr Norman Wiseman, old friends of the deceased; Messrs. R. Sly, James Goater and John Osborne, contemporary jockeys; Messrs. F. Archer, H. Morgan, and T. Bruckshaw, representatives of the new generation of jockeys; Messrs. Matthew Dawson, John Dawson, sen., James Waugh, John Dawson, jun., and A.B. Sadler, trainers; and Messrs. J.N. York, J. Holmes, T.M. Clark, B. Chennell, J. Lancaster, F. Stone, R. Barrow, H. Feist, C. Rayner, W. Collett, George Everitt, E. Potter, and other friends and acquaintances of the deceased, with Doctors J.R. Wright and H. Hutchinson, his medical attendants. Wreaths of immortelles and crosses of a variety of beautiful flowers, tokens of regard from numerous relatives and friends of the deceased, entirely hid the coffin from sight. Mr C.B. Dear, draper and undertaker, of High-street, was entrusted with the entire arrangements, and with the assistance of his experienced foreman, Mr Wheatley, the funeral was most creditably conducted. The coffin was of handsomely polished oak, with solid brass fittings, having an inner shell of elm, and was made by Mr A. Savage. The following inscription appeared on the plate: - Thomas Aldcroft, died May 4, 1883, aged 48, R.I.P.'
The Gravestone in Newmarket Cemetery is inscribed: 'In Loving Memory of Thomas Aldcroft of Grafton House who Died May 4th 1883 Aged 48 Years - Also Jane his Wife who Died August 31st 1921 Aged 77 Years '.

Thomas Aldcroft Obituary 
The Morning Post Monday 7 May 1883 by 'PAVO'
'I am sorry to announce that the long illness which confined Tom Aldcroft to his bed for some time terminated with his death on Thursday last at his well known residence, Grafton House, Newmarket.
Brought up at Tupgill, under the late Mr Thomas Dawson, Aldcroft attained far greater eminence in his profession than the many other good jockeys graduated with their experienced mentor, prominent amongst whom were Josiah Arnold the present landlord of the Turf Tavern at Doncaster, Hudson (now living in France), Fred Bates (who succeeded his father-in-law at Tupgill as private trainer to Mr. Robert Jardine and Mr. John Johnstone), George Bullock (who won the Derby on Kettledrum at a very early age), Madden (the rider of Kingsem in the Goodwood Cup and nearly all her other numerous victories), and Cameron, amongst others.
Possessed of fine hands and wonderful patience, Aldcroft earned as great a reputation in his day for his brilliant rush and well-timed finish as Frank Butler, Jim Robinson, and Sam Chifney, his most famous predecessors in that particular art of race riding. He was not so tall as either, however, but had to abandon his profession much earlier owing to his increasing weight; and few of the present generation of racing men to whom Aldcroft or the still more burly figure of Edwin Weever, may have been pointed out of late years, would believe that rode at 5st 7lb during his apprenticeship.
Aldcroft won the Derby on Ellington in 1856, when the ground more resembled an Irish snipe bog than a racecourse, but had to put up with second honours in the Oaks two years afterwards on that horse's sister, Gildermire, though he made up for the latter disappointment by securing the 'Epsom Garter' on Lord Falmouth's Queen Bertha in 1863 about which period he rode frequently for the Whitewall stable, so high an opinion did the late John Scott ever entertain of his skill.
He was also placed in the Derby on The Hadji (third to Beadsman and Toxophilite) in 1858, and second on General Peel to Blair Athole in 1864; but his nearest approach to St Leger honours was in 1858 on The Hadji, he split Mr Merry's two mares, Sunbeam and Blanche of Middlebie. How John Scott and Wells failed to alter the Derby form of General Peel in the Leger — for which event the latter was sent from Tupgill to Whitewall to be trained at Tom Dawson's earnest solicitation, in consequence of the misunderstanding which unjustly arose between Lord Glasgow, Mr. Jackson, and Aldcroft in connection with the Derby, after the latter had won the Two Thousand on The General - is a matter of history.
Ten years previously the subject of this notice made his first "big mark" on Lord of the Isles after the longest and most punishing struggle I ever witnessed for that event. The Lord and St. Hubert raced home locked together all the way from the Bushes - there was no final rush on the part of either horse, so tired were they - and it was the general opinion that both jockeys never showed to less advantage. Aldcroft broke his whip over Lord of the Isles and his horse's heart at the same time, for the latter cut a poor figure in the Derby when he finished third to Wild Dayrell and Kingstown. Each of the foregoing events to which I have alluded with compulsory brevity would supply material for a lengthy chapter of romantic Turf history; and I must conclude this hasty notice of Aldcroft's career by recording the somewhat sensational circumstances associated with his last mount in the ever memorable Derby of 1868.
He weighed out for the Duke of Newcastle's Pace, but in the preliminary canter the horse over-reached himself so badly opposite the Stand that he could not go to the post. At the same meeting Aldcroft rode Gomera (second to Hippia) in the Queen's Plate, and steered the Duke of Hamilton's Leonie in the Oaks, which, if I mistake not, were his last appearances "in silk." Aldcroft married Miss Cartwright, a daughter of Beeswing's old jockey, who survives him.'
It seems probable that Thomas Aldcroft was a tenant at Grafton House, Newmarket. His will shows that the gross value of his Estate was £1,098 - 2 - 10, whereas the property is said to have been purchased by Baron de Hirsch, presumably after Thomas Aldcroft's death, for £11,900.

Thomas Aldcroft's Will:

This is the last Will and Testament of me Thomas Aldcroft of Grafton House Newmarket I direct that all my just debts funeral and testamentary expenses be paid and discharged by my Executrix hereinafter named as soon as conveniently may be after my decease I give and bequeath All my household furniture plate linen china books pictures wearing apparel and other effects and also all sum and sums of money which may be due owing or belonging to me at my decease or which may be invested in or upon any stocks funds or other securities And also all other my estate and effects whatsoever and wheresoever both real and personal and whether in poƒseƒsion reversion or expectancy unto my dear wife Jane Aldcroft her executors administrators and aƒsigns absolutely to and for her and their own use and benefit And I nominate constitute and appoint my said Wife sole Executrix of this my Will And I hereby revoke all former Wills by me at any time heretofore made and do declare this to be my last Will and testament In witneƒs whereof I the said Thomas Aldcroft have to this my last Will and testament set my hand the sixteenth day of June in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and eighty - Thomas Aldcroft - Signed and declared by the said Thomas Aldcroft the testator as and for his last Will and testament in the presence of us who at his request in his presence and in the presence of each other all being present at the same time have hereunto subscribed our names as witneƒses - Alexander Dawson Hogg - John Cartwright.
On the 29th day of September 1883 Probate of this Will was granted to Jane Aldcroft Widow the sole Executrix.

Newspaper Cutting (Newmarket Journal) 24/1/1885:
'Grafton House, Newmarket.
To Be Let Or Sold.
For Particulars, apply to
Messrs. Feist and Son,
Auctioneers, Newmarket.'
Newspaper Cutting (Newmarket Journal) 18/7/1896:
'Forthcoming Sale Of Grafton House. - Grafton House, Newmarket, is announced for sale by Messrs. Biddell and Blencowe, of Bury St. Edmund's, acting for the representatives of the late Baron de Hirsch. The Baron spent a good deal upon this property, and it is now probably one of the best in the town of those gentlemen's establishments which combine the charms of residence and training.'

Newspaper Cutting (Newmarket Journal) 5/12/1896:
The Grafton House Estate.
One of the most complete Residential and Racing Establishments to be found in the Metropolis of the Turf, comprising the well-appointed Mansion in the High Street, with handsome suite of reception rooms, 14 bedrooms and offices, nearly opposite the Jockey Club, a trainer's residence, 28 airy loose boxes and all necessary adjuncts, boys' quarters, spacious lawns and yards comprising an area of 1a., 1r.,  8p., in the centre of Newmarket, and abutting upon Fitzroy Street in the rear, with direct access to the Heath for Blood stock, the whole property having been recently remodelled and mostly rebuilt in the best style regardless of cost by the late noble owner.