Gallery 1 - The David Swannell Room
Featuring : The Origins of Racing, Royalty
and the Classic races
British racing may have started as early as the bronze age. One way of telling racing’s story in this country is through its long and almost unbroken association with royalty.
King Charles II was an enthusiastic patron of the racing at Newmarket. He rode in races himself, set out rules and adjudicated in disputes. His twice yearly visits to Newmarket began in 1666 and took place regularly, establishing a pattern which continues today.
On display is the starting post of Newmarket’s Beacon Course which was a gruelling four miles, one furlong and 136 yards in length. Pratt who made his name as jockey of the horse Gimcrack is recorded as having ridden over the Beacon 11 times during one day in about 1770.
Trophies, in the form of the bells, were popular prizes. A replica of the silver Lanark Bell can be seen. The Lanark Silver Bell race was founded by King William the Lion of Scotland. No original bells exist this example is a replica of a surviving bell from the early 17th century and was won 1926. The course closed in 1977.
The centrepiece of the exhibition of Royal memorabilia is the preserved head of Persimmon, the best horse ever bred by the Royal Family. As well as the Derby and St Leger in 1886, he won the Gold Cup and the Eclipse Stakes in 1897 for the future Edward VII, whose bust can be seen on display.
The Royal colours have undergone little alteration over more than two centuries as can be seen by those of Queen Elizabeth II which closely resemble the crimson waistcoat, purple sleeves and black cap worn registered by the Prince of Wales in 1783.
The Derby, St Leger, Oaks, 2000 and 1000 Guineas are all represented with some wonderful paintings including 'Derby Day' after W P Frith depicting a crowd scene featuring stall holders, carriage folk at their picnic and even a pickpocket!
A section is devoted to the Triple Crown – 2000 Guineas, the Derby and St Leger – all fifteen winning horses from the first Western Australian in 1853 to Nijinsky in 1970 are shown through examples of memorabilia.
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