The Queen is to open Newmarket’s £15million National Heritage Centre
- Credit: Archant
Her Majesty The Queen is to officially open the new £15million National Heritage Centre for Horseracing and Sporting Art in the Suffolk town of Newmarket, where many of her own horses are trained and stabled.
Ten years’ planning have gone into the new centre, which is based in the remains of King Charles II’s sporting palace and stables in the heart of Newmarket.
The new facility comprises three main features - the new National Horseracing Museum, a National Art Gallery of British Sporting Art and a chance to meet former racehorses. Those behind the project claim it is most significant new attraction to open in Suffolk in recent years, potentially attracting thousands of visitors from all over the world.
The official opening ceremony on Thursday, November 3, will see The Queen unveiling a commemorative plaque before touring the main facilities at the five-acre site.
This will include meeting some of the equine stars in the Rothschild Yard, a visit to the Robert’s Veterinary Gallery and the Pivotal Racehorse Simulator Gallery, which is supported by the Thompson Family Charitable Trust.
The Queen is Patron of the National Horseracing Museum and 33 years ago she opened the original museum building on Newmarket High Street, in April 1983.
Since then however, the collection has steadily grown until it became clear that a larger venue was needed to showcase the internationally significant works, and the sport of horseracing in general.
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The new museum project has taken more than a decade to come to fruition. In March 2005, the Home of Horseracing Trust was formed by local partners and plans for the National Heritage Centre were developed. And now 11 years on, a world-class destination has been created in a venue that showcases the ‘Sport of Kings’ in every element - preserving its past, safeguarding its present and celebrating its future.
During her visit, The Queen will be introduced to many of the individuals and organisations whose support has made the redevelopment possible. Children from All Saints School will line the drive to welcome the Monarch’s arrival and one lucky pupil will present her with a posy.
Peter Jensen, chairman of the Home of Horseracing Trust, said he was “extremely proud” of what has been created, over many years.
“Many of the people and organisations who will be attending the opening ceremony have donated large amounts of time, enthusiasm and money to enable this project to happen, and I know they will be honoured that the Queen has agreed to open the National Heritage Centre for us,” he said.
Meanwhile Chris Garibaldi, director of the National Horseracing Museum, said he was “delighted” that The Queen would be performing the honours at the new centre.
He added: “Horseracing is a sport that we know is close to Her Majesty’s heart and we hope that she will be impressed with the new facilities – providing as it does the opportunity for visitors to understand the fascinating historical context to the modern sport and the horseracing industry.”
The Heritage Lottery Fund, Forest Heath District Council, Suffolk County Council, the racing industry as well as many private trusts, foundations and individuals from the world of horse racing have contributed to the centre.
Ros Kerslake, chief executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, described it as a “wonderful new cultural destination” which will support the development and regeneration of Newmarket, and make a huge contribution to the local economy.
“We are delighted that, thanks to National Lottery players, we’ve been able to fund this fantastic project, helping visitors engage with the global history of horseracing and underlining the significance of the sport’s heritage story,” she said.
Richsaid Smith, the county council’s cabinet member for heritage, said: “I have been involved over the last three years with various aspects of planning for this stunning new attraction and pay tribute to the skills and fortitude of the project team, charities involved and Suffolk County and Forest Heath District councils.
“The culmination of these efforts will be recognised and celebrated by Her Majesty when she officially opens this superb heritage attraction, which will be a ‘must-visit’ for those who both live in and visit Suffolk.”
Andy Drummond, Forest Heath’s cabinet member for culture described the heritage centre as a “celebration of Newmarket’s regal and racing past” which the local community should be proud of.
He added: “It is fitting that, in the year that we mark 350 years of the sport of kings here in Newmarket, we welcome our longest serving monarch to formally open this heritage centre - a world class attraction that commemorates Newmarket’s unique status as the international headquarters of horseracing.”
The Queen has a long standing association with Newmarket. She last visited the town on official business in May 2015 when she helped to celebrate the National Stud’s centenary year.
She also unveiled a new portrait of her with Estimate, the Ascot Gold Cup winning mare, which adorns the walls of the Jockey Club Rooms.
The Queen has made several official visits over the years to centres of excellence such as the Animal Health Trust. Unofficially, she regularly visits the town to see her horses in training.
The latest official engagement at the National Heritage Centre comes during a year of celebrations marking 350 years of racing in Newmarket.