Two weeks in early September have become a major focus for exploring important and quirky buildings up and down the UK, many of them only open to the general public for this short period.
It’s a great opportunity to be able to visit the most interesting buildings in many towns and cities, with an increasing number of areas preparing programmes and information for visitors.
It all began with the London Open House scheme, which was started by Victoria Thornton in 1992. Each year around 800 buildings, walks talks and tours are offered around the capital.
Over the past few years other towns and cities have come on board with a similar scheme called Heritage Open Days. This now includes 5,000 events around England, many involving themed visits in towns and cities.
At Discover Britains Delightful Towns we want to help visitors enjoy everything that towns have to offer and there’s no better time than during the open house/heritage open day long weekends, which this year fall on 6-9 and 13-16 September.
To give you just a taste of what’s available, here’s a selection of sites you can visit in different regions.
Heritage Open Day at Maidstone
Kent’s county town of Maidstone is full of heritage and located in the heart of the Garden of England. And, the town is offering tours of Maidstone Town Hall, a fine Georgian building dating back to 1763. The tour includes unique stories of the council chamber supported by historical paintings that decorate the room. Followed by the unusual gaol on the 2nd floor and its graffiti carved by the prisoners. Explore 9 other open events in the town. Event information: Maidstone Town Hall Tours
St Mary in the Castle, Hastings
Hastings is most famous for the battle of 1066, William the Conqueror built the castle there. Its ruins are at the top of the West Hill which offers wonderful views of the Channel. Sitting at the base of West Hill is St Mary in the Castle. The building is a Grade II* listed former Church converted into an arts centre in 1998. The tour by local historian Brion Purdey includes the history and design of the building and the crypt. You can also learn about some of the people imprisoned within. Explore 10 other open events in the town. Event Information: Mary in the Castle
Dunster, in Somerset, is a quaint medieval English village in a country setting. As the best-preserved medieval village in England it punches well above its weight for interesting heritage features. Today, the Castle is an important historical feature of the town. Heritage open days is opening the National Trust castle, gardens and working watermill to visitors. With over 1000 years of history, the castle has plenty of great stories to tell. The castle offers spectacular views towards the Bristol Channel and up to the moors of Exmoor. Explore 3 other events in the local area. Event Information: Dunster Castle, Gardens and Watermill
Poole is a large coastal town with a historic harbour in the county of Dorset, on the south coast of England. Today, it is a tourist resort, attracting visitors to the natural harbour, its long history, and beautiful Blue Flag beaches. Hidden in the heart of Poole town centre is Byngley House. Built in 1587 the house is the oldest building in Poole and is a Grade II Elizabethan private residence. There is a rumour that Oliver Cromwell stayed at the house using it as a meeting place by his parliamentarians. Open for one day in September, don’t miss the chance to step back in time and see the original C16th features of the property. Explore 4 other events in the town.Event Information: Byngley House
Being the second largest town in the West Midlands region, Coventry is full of heritage, medieval castles, and ancient legends. The town was the birthplace of Shakespeare and home of King Henry VIII school. The school has a long history dating back to 1545. Then the King instructed his hanaper, Sir John Hales, to found a school in the city of Coventry. Tours of the school and its history are taking place hourly for one day in September! Explore 53 other events in the town. Event Information and Bookings: King Henry VIII School
Brindley’s Mill in Leek
Leek, a traditional market town on the edge of the Peak District National Park. Perfectly placed for a relaxed break away, mooching around the markets, independent shops and wealth of cafes, tea rooms and pubs. Brindley’s Mill is a charming restored Mill dating back to 1752. Heritage open days is offering guided tours of the mill with corn grinding demonstrations and even live folk music. Event Information: Brindley’s Mill
The coastal town of Great Yarmouth has remained a seaside resort since 1760. Famous for its pleasure beach and amusement arcades, the town also offers offbeat historical sites and attractions. The Fisherman’s hospital to the east of the market place was built for old and ‘decayed’ fishermen and their wives in 1702. Open especially for heritage open days, this is a unique opportunity to experience the fisherman’s cottages. Explore 19 other events in the town. Event Information: The Fisherman’s Hospital
Built on Jurassic rock, Stamford grew rich on the wool trade. In the early middle ages Stamford was an important cloth making town. However, today its listed buildings range from medieval monasteries and medieval parish churches to fine C18th town houses. Stamford’s C18th Town Hall will open its door in September for tours of its magnificent court room with original furniture and displays. Explore 10 other events in the local town. Event Information: Stamford Town Hall
Wakefield in West Yorkshire
Wakefield is the administrative centre of West Yorkshire, and sits on the banks of the Calder. The first record of the town is in the Domesday Book, but archaeological finds pre-date that. There is evidence of coal mining in the area in Roman times. The royal charter was granted by Queen Elizebeth I for the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Grammar school in 1591. Today, the grammar school is still educating. The oldest part of the school will be open in September for visitors with an exhibition presenting related material. Explore 18 other events in the town. Event Information: Queen Elizabeth Grammar School
Morpeth in NorthumberlandMorpeth lies on the river Wansbeck. A market town, which also has a rich history to explore. It is the historic county town of Northumberland. It is a good base from which to explore the county of Northumbria. The town’s most famous landmark will be open for tours with heritage open days. The tour includes climbing the clocktower stairs with the opportunity to ring the bells. Booking is required for this site, so be sure not to miss out! Explore 20 other events in the town. Event Information: Morpeth Clock Tower
Blackpool is a thriving seaside resort in the North West of England. It has sand and sea, shows, attractions and entertainment. It also a collection of unique experiences and historical sites. Be immersed in Blackpool’s most historic hotel, the Imperial, which has housed famous guests such as Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens. Behind the scenes tours are available including of the Turkish baths. Explore 23 other events in the local town. Event Information and Bookings: Imperial Hotel
Reigate, is a town that retains a village feel in South East Surrey. The town boasts Priory Park now restored to its C19th glory. As part of Heritage Open Days the caves beneath Reigate Castle are open for tours for one day in September. Explore the medieval tunnels with a local tour guide, incorporate other local caves into the visit to make the most of the experience. Explore 8 other events in the town. Event Information: Barons’ Cave
This is only a selection from thousands of fascinating buildings for you to visit. For further information about London properties visit Open House London and for others around the country go to Heritage Open Days .