Two rare letters from Sir Alfred Munnings





Two rare letters from Sir Alfred Munnings have gone on display in the National Heritage Centre at Palace House Newmarket

Two rare letters and a visitors’ book have gone on display in the National Heritage Centre at Palace House Newmarket. They are from Sir Alfred Munnings (1879-1959) to Mrs Kate Howard who ran a four roomed guest house in Newmarket where he stayed.

Munnings frequently visited Newmarket, particularly during the end of his life, to go on the gallops and sketch the horses training there. These letters, dated May 1951, indicate that Munnings dashed up from London, by car, and would let Mrs Howard know he was coming and what he wanted for dinner. “A piece of turbot and mashed potatoes” was the choice here. There is a sense that he is carving out time in a busy schedule in order to draw, and that detailed arrangements needed to be made for this.  Sketching horses in training or at the start and end of a race was clearly his main preoccupation since he produced a prolific amount of work, as shown in the number of sketchbooks he had and the amount of preparatory studies which were made. This guest house is likely to have been on Rous Road in Newmarket and Munnings clearly liked staying there. These letters, one of which contains a small sketch of a bowl of flowers, give a glimpse of the inner man, a thoughtful figure at odds with his public reputation.

The National Heritage Centre is very pleased to be able to display this material in the public atrium that can be accessed via Palace Street and the Rous Road Car Park free of charge. They have been kindly donated by Mrs Jean Tanner, who lives in Newmarket and was very good friends with Mrs Howard. She has gifted the works in memory of her son John Tanner, who died earlier this year.  It is a fitting time for the letters go on display as the special exhibition Painting Winners in partnership with The Munnings Art Museum, which celebrates Munnings time in Newmarket is currently open.

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