Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Lord Coe gift offers visitors to England's greatest Elizabethan house even more history in 2013

Burghley house has wrapped up an Olympic year of celebration with a unique gift from the man who spearheaded Britain's hugely successful London 2012 Games.

Ancestral home to David Cecil, Lord Burghley (1905-1981) - an Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler who helped deliver the 1948 London Games - Burghley celebrated its sporting connections with an exhibition of his sporting achievements as well as special events in 2012.

Among exhibits on display during the year long exhibition was an original Olympic torch from the 1948 London Games - and Burghley, near Stamford, welcomed the 2012 version during a torch runner hand-over as part of the Olympic Flame's triumphant UK summer relay.

Now one of the 2012 torches has returned to the Lincolnshire historic house… thanks to the generosity of Olympics supremo Lord Sebastian Coe.

The gift means that England's greatest Elizabethan house has the honour of being home to not one, but two Olympic torches from two different Games.

Fittingly Lord Coe was at Burghley in July to welcome the torch as it changed hands in front of the house, which was home to Lord Burghley, a celebrated Olympic athlete and the man who was effectively the Lord Coe of his day for the last London Games, in 1948.

Lord Coe also carried the torch himself in his hometown of Sheffield and like all runners who took part in the nationwide relay he got to keep his torch as a memento. And he has decided to donate his torch to Burghley so that it can go on display alongside Lord Burghley's 1948 torch in the permanent Olympic Corridor exhibition within the House in 2013.

"We're so grateful to Lord Coe for his very gracious gift which will add a special bit of sporting history to Burghley's remarkable collection" said Miranda Rock, Burghley House director.

And she added: "It's been a pleasure this year seeing so many visitors appreciating my grandfather's sporting legacy thanks to the wonderful exhibits we were able to display as part of our Olympics exhibition, including the torch from the 1948 London Games.

"Welcoming the 2012 torch to Burghley in the summer was among our highlights of the year and we were so grateful that Lord Coe took time out of his busy schedule to share that special day with us. Now his gift of his own Olympic torch will mean visitors to the house next year will be able to see even more Olympic history in this very special place.”

Hurdler David Cecil, Lord Burghley, who inherited the title of Marquess of Exeter from his father in 1956, was one of the golden athletes of his generation, winning gold for the 400 metres hurdles at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics and silver in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics 4x400 metre relay.

Once he retired from active sport, he worked hard for amateur ideals within the Olympic movement. As President of the International Amateur Athletic Federation, Chairman of the British Olympic Association and a member of the International Olympic Committee, he was instrumental in bringing the Olympic Games to England in 1948 and was also chairman of the Organising and Executive Committee for those Games.

During his time at Cambridge, Lord Burghley - as he was then known - was also the inspiration behind one of the key characters in the movie Chariots of Fire, played by Nigel Havers. A famous scene in that film was also inspired by one of Lord Burghley’s feats – the race around the Great Court at Trinity College, Cambridge, against fellow athletes, when he became the only person to sprint around the courtyard before the college clock tolled 12 times.

While the Olympics exhibition ended when the House closed for the season at the end of October, Burghley’s permanent Olympic Corridor display returns for the 2013 season. The expanded exhibition will also now include both the 1948 and 2012 Olympic torches.

For full details of 2013 opening times and prices visit or telephone 01780 752451.

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