This new exhibition explores the history of ice skating as a practical means of transport, a sport, a pastime, and an art.

Skating presents a fascinating collection of 30 works from the past 400 years, ranging from 17th-century Flemish painting and Victorian panoramic scenes to 20th-century photographs, vintage skates and Pathé films.

In 1605 James I chanced upon the village of Newmarket whilst out hunting and recognised the open, flat Suffolk plains as an ideal location upon which to race his string of horses. Subsequently, the town came to be regarded as the epicentre of the British horse racing industry – but the nearby rivers, fens and waterways also provided an alternative transportation network and source of sporting endeavour in the teeth of winter.

Exhibition highlights include a selection of Flemish Old Masters which reveal glimpses into how people living in Flanders during the 17th-century used frozen waterways as a means of going about their business, and having some fun at the same time. A series of photographs by Bassano and a collection of later Victorian lantern slides demonstrate how skating wasn’t just a social pastime, but was also both a sporting and artistic endeavour in its own right.


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