A fascinating exhibition showcasing the history of steeplechasing in the Melton area and how it influenced the development of horseracing in this country is set to get under starter’s orders next week at the town’s museum.
‘A Day at the Races: Steeplechasing in and around Melton from 1820 to 1938’ chronicles the growth in popularity of the sport locally, with a focus on the former Burton Lazars racecourse.
The exhibition, which starts on Saturday September 7 at Melton Carnegie Museum, will feature artworks and objects from the Leicestershire County Museums collections and the Melton hunt steeplechase archive from the Record Office for Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland.
World-famous steeplechase races like the Grand National, at Aintree, and the Cheltenham Festival owe their origins to amateur races by men who were members of local hunts.
In England one of the first recorded steeplechases took place in Leicestershire in 1792, when three horses raced the eight miles from Barkby Holt to Billesdon Coplow and back.
By the 1860s, races were being run across many courses around Britain including the National Hunt Chase, which was first run at Market Harborough and regularly changed venue – including Burton Lazars - until it became part of the meeting which is now the Cheltenham Festival.
Councillor Richard Blunt, the county council’s cabinet member for heritage, leisure and arts, said: “Melton played a part in the development of horse racing as we know it today and this exhibition at Melton Carnegie Museum gives visitors a fascinating insight into that history.
“It’s well worth a visit, whether you are a fan of the sport or not.”
The exhibition runs until December 14 and entry is free.
The museum is open from 10am to 4.30pm from Tuesday to Saturday.