This week it was my turn to nearly supervise a small installation and make sure that no harm came to the Grade II listed stable block and its fittings . This exhibition ‘Suffolk Horse Power’ tells the story of the Suffolk Punch horse, a local agricultural breed famed for its strength and endurance pulling farm equipment, but now in danger of disappearing after tractors became popular across East Anglia in the 1950s. Herbert Longe bought Abbot’s Hall in 1903 and bred the Suffolk Punch until about 1939, but must have sold them as he bought 2 horses to work the farm during the war. This strong link to Abbot’s Hall and important historical events is part of the reason we still have a Suffolk Punch at the museum.
Normally when people talk about hanging an exhibition, they mean attaching pictures to walls using brackets and screws, but working in the Victorian stable block (a Grade II listed building) meant that we couldn’t drill any holes, and everything had to hang from string looped round lots of different supports.
A timeline of the Suffolk Punch’s history hangs from rafters 2 metres above, old photos hang from rustic metal brackets and full-size photograph of a Suffolk Punch is carefully held in position by screws placed between metal bars and into blocks of left-over wood.
It was a long, cold day, but worth it in the end – the stable block has been brought to life to celebrate the story of a true local farming icon.
‘Suffolk Horse Power: Our Living Heritage’ is open until 4th November 2016 during normal museum opening hours. Entry is free.