Palace House Stables Project
Impression of the new Museum courtyard Impression of Museum entrance from the mews
Plans for the National Horseracing Museum to move to the Palace House Site in Newmarket took a major step forward last autumn. In September, Suffolk County Council approved a capital grant of £1 million towards the total cost f £10.9 million for the whole project. In November Forest Heath District Council added another £713,000. FHDC also added the ground floor of the Palace House and the adjacent Mews to the project. If all goes well with further fundraising the ambitious aim is to open the Museum on the new site in 2013.
The project has been a long time in gestation. There have been stops, starts and go slows over many years. The aim is to redevelop the Palace House and Palace House Stables. The whole site will house the Museum in the outer yard of the stables, the Gallery of the British Sporting Art Trust (BSAT) in Palace House, an education centre in the Mews and a working yard for the Retraining of Racehorses Trust (RoR) in the inner yard and paddocks. This means that there will be a world-class museum, art gallery and study centre celebrating the development of the thoroughbred horse and sporting art in Great Britain. It will also demonstrate the contribution that Newmarkethas made and continues to make to the growth of the worldwide sport and industry of thoroughbred racing and breeding.
The driving force for the project is the Home of Horseracing Trust that is responsible for fund-raising and the overall redevelopment of the site. The Trust will be granted a 999-year lease for the entire site by Forest Heath District Council at a peppercorn rent. The lead organisation in running the site day-to-day will be the National Horseracing Museum. The search for a new Director for the Museum has begun and we hope that he or she will be in post by the spring of next year.
Detailed planning is well under way. Plans for the Museum have been prepared and will be submitted to the planning authorities before Christmas. The trainer’s house is a Grade II Listed Building and therefore the plans for the conversion of the house and yard into the Museum have had to be developed sensitively. Planning permission has already been secured for the RoR yard and the conversion of Palace House into the art gallery with the appropriate security and climate controls to protect the collection.
Newmarket is the ideal place for a joint development of a sporting art gallery, horseracing museum and (re)training yard for racehorses. James I built a hunting lodge on the High Street in 1605 which was destroyed during the Commonwealth. After the Restoration Charles II came to Newmarket in 1666 and completed his Palace on a new site by 1672 to a design by local architect, William Samwell. Today Palace House is what remains of that much larger building which originally contained the King’s apartments. Samwell introduced a number of innovations, including corner fireplaces and chimneys, which were much disapproved of by the diarist, John Evelyn, when he visited the Palace, and an early type of counter-balanced sliding sash window. An example of the sash window was uncovered in the recent renovation by Forest Heath District Council and will be retained as part of future displays.
Present view of the Stables from Palace House The Trainer's House on the right
The Palace House Stables were used almost continuously for the training of racehorses from the days of Charles II to 1985, when Bruce Hobbs retired from training after twenty years on the site. Seventeen Classic winners were trained from the Stables between 1837 and 1926. In its heyday of the late nineteenth century, Palace House was the largest training establishment in the town. Newmarket was struggling as a training centre in the early years of the nineteenth century, but one of the occupants of Palace House, James Kealey Godding declared that if he could not train a Derby winner at Newmarket he could not train one anywhere. He made good on his promise in 1863 when Macaroni won the Derby and the town has not looked back since. The Rothschilds bought the House and Stables from Godding, remodelled the House and extended the Stables. They installed their trainers, Joseph Hayhoe followed by his son, Alfred and then John Watson. In 1934 Sir Jack Jarvis leased the yard as an overflow yard. Bruce Hobbs took over in 1966 for what turned out to be the last twenty years of its life as an active training yard.
The Palace House project brings together racing heritage, sporting art and live horses as a way of continuing the long history of Palace House and its Stables in a very appropriate way.