Art in the stableyard
Visits the National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art at Newmarket. Opening this month, it is the culmination of a 30-year project
NEWMARKET hides its horse culture behind fences, walls and gates. Although several thousand horses are stabled in and around the town, these valuable animals, long bred for their power and speed, are out of sight. Even the spectacle of Thoroughbreds stretching their legs along the skyline is limited to the early hours of the day, so, when there is no race meeting, the equine basis of Newmarket’s economic and cultural life is effectively invisible.
It can be traced back over more than four centuries to 1605, when James I came to enjoy hunting and hawking on Newmarket Heath. The wide Suffolk landscape was soon being exploited for breeding and testing horses for speed and manoeuvrability, essential not only for racing and hunting but also warfare, once cavalrymen had abandoned plate armour.
However, this unseen world is about to be revealed. Behind the commercial High Street, a new National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art has been created. This ingenious scheme entwines art, artefacts and live horses, with something to please everyone. Rooted in farsighted negotiations between Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the town of Newmarket and diverse elements of the racing industry, the project goes back more than 30 years.
In about 1980, the Rothschilds sold the remnant of Charles II’S Newmarket residence, Palace House, to Forest Heath District Council. In the mid 1980s, following the retirement of the trainer Bruce Hobbs, the large spaces in the town centre occupied by the Trainer’s House and stableyards became