Gallery: Elegance and opulence in Newmarket, the home of horse racing
- Credit: Archant
Newmarket is famously the home of British Racing.
This small Suffolk town is home to around 2,500 horses and two race courses as well as an industry which is crucial to the Suffolk economy.
And the history of the town is inextricably linked to the history of racing.
In the middle of the High Street next to the post office and opposite the White Hart public house, The Jockey Club Rooms have been at the heart of the racing fraternity for more than two centuries.
Room Steward Alan Medlock has worked there since 2000.
He said: “The Jockey Club came here in 1752 and that was when it established a permanent presence in the town. The club encouraged the development of Newmarket and the development of the infrastructure of racing.”
Today the Jockey Club Rooms are a treasure trove of racing history.
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Stunning paintings of famous horses, famous people and famous characters line the walls. The rooms themselves are beautifully furnished, the furniture is exquisite, the chandeliers sparkle, the plasterwork is delicate, and the fireplaces are marble.
Outside the walled gardens are immaculate and the place oozes style and elegance.
Alan said: “The rooms began as a place to meet for those interested in racing. They included half the nobility of England whose passion was horseracing and gambling. They began in the street where they would settle their wagers and they did their betting within their fraternity, they were gentlemen.”
In the early days racing wasn’t as organised as it is today.
The rules varied from course to course and it wasn’t until later that The Jockey Club began to administer the sport.
Today racing is governed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA) and The Jockey Club Rooms remain as a private members club for those passionate about the sport.
Alan said: “Members of The Jockey Club Rooms are elected and many are involved in racing as owners and breeders. It is effectively a social club for about 600 people who are passionate about racing and breeding horses.”
Prospective members need to proposed and seconded and supported by at least four other members. Understandably Alan will not be drawn on the identities of some of the better known members and visitors.
He said: “People come here because it is private and we protect that privacy. If we didn’t it wouldn’t be private any more.”
With a Morning Room, a large and recently refurbished Dining Room, a Committee Room, the Stewards Room and the Card Room as well as the accommodation block, the rooms offer members an extremely elegant base during the racing calendar.
And during busy times the staff provides breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner to members.
Paintings by George Stubbs, John Frederick Herring and Sir Alfred Munnings line the walls, and a fascinating array of artefacts – such as mounted hooves, bronzes, racing silks and trophies – make up the collection.
Over the years the buildings have grown with the last major development coming in 1933. And today the original 17th century coffee room, completed with 200 year old leather booths, has been incorporated into the design – stepping inside is like going back in time.
Alan is passionate about the rooms and their contents and he regularly conducts tours.
He said: “I love the history of the rooms and the amazing collection. People are always fascinated to find out about the collection and the history of racing.”
Though The Jockey Club Rooms retains its principal role as home to a private members club, the rooms are available not only for guided tours but also for hire for corporate events and weddings.
Lucy Saunders, 22, works in marketing and business development at the Jockey Club Rooms.
She said The Jockey Club Rooms is keen to develop its open house programme which includes a series of events including Sunday lunches, afternoon teas, guided tours, and film nights.
She added: “It is an amazing place and we are open on select days of the year outside of the racing calendar. Our open house events are limited but they allow people a rare view inside the historic Jockey Club Rooms.”
For more information visit www.jockeyclubrooms.co.uk