2023 was the 130th Anniversary of the Racing Centre and we wanted to mark this important year with a display at the museum and to preserve records and objects from the Racing Centre for the future. It was a real community effort! The project began in 2022 following a chance meeting with a Racing Welfare beneficiary who had brought in some programmes to share with John Gilbert which got the conversation started.

Volunteers and staff from the NHRM helped to sort and organise the Racing Centre’s archive of scrapbooks, printed material and objects.

The collection showed the recreational sporting pursuits of racing staff, from bowls, golf and squash, to boxing, football, swimming, darts and pool. Family fun days, community fundraisers around Newmarket, music nights at the Racing Centre and boxing events in London and here in Newmarket at the Racing Centre showed the reach of the centre across the wider community and its place in the heart of the community of racing staff.

A pair of Dynamo’s shorts, customised by local equine artist Jackie Jones and photographs dedicated to the Astley Centre, including a signed photograph from Phil Collins showed the breadth of celebrity support for the centre.

The trophies and plates were interesting to us and we wanted to try to match up newspaper and other printed material to these and try to shine a light on local people and stories attached to them. We explored over one hundred years of newspaper reports kept meticulously in scrapbooks by Ron Wallwork and colleagues from the 1970s onwards and in the early days.

Racing Welfare beneficiaries then joined us at the Museum for a coffee morning catch-up and helped to identify and provide more information about some of the trophies.

As some of the trophies had been hidden away for thirty or forty years, we sought permission from the Centre to clean them using museum grade cleaning products and conservation approved materials and processes. Volunteers assisted with this and learned how to look after silverware under the guidance of NHRM’s Collections Manager, Tabatha Watson.

The display in the Atrium was co-curated with the Racing Centre team and community volunteers and was a real talking point!

Creative Programme Manager, Sarah Coleman said:

‘It’s been amazing to explore the history of the Racing Centre with its roots as the Astley Institute, created from a place of care and support for stable staff and especially those young people leaving home for the first time and embarking on a career in racing.

What a privilege it has been to explore the Racing Centre’s archive and to help to document it. We’ve learned so much about the huge part the centre plays in the lives of current and former racing staff as well as the wider community of Newmarket. Huge thanks to our volunteers, Racing Centre Team, Racing Welfare and the beneficiaries and to our funder, The Racing Foundation. Here’s to the next 130 years!’

Recent news