Free festival of heritage to discover Norwich and Norfolk’s rich history

PUBLISHED: 17:31 04 August 2014 | UPDATED: 17:31 04 August 2014

Launch of the Heritage Open Days booklet at RAF Coltishall. Photo: Bill Smith

Launch of the Heritage Open Days booklet at RAF Coltishall. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2014

Windows into our city and county’s rich history are being opened to all next month as venues prepare to welcome visitors during the annual Heritage Open Days event.

Old Cromer signal box. Photo: Ian Burt. Old Cromer signal box. Photo: Ian Burt.

There are more than 220 free events across Norwich and beyond during the heritage festival from September 11 to 14 - and for the first time the former RAF Coltishall is among the places taking part. The former airbase - a fighter station during the Second World War and Cold War - looks set to be a 2014 highlight and was picked as the launch venue for the 2014 HOD brochure available from today.

Norwich HEART (Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust) is celebrating its 10th anniversary of running Heritage Open Days, and chief executive Michael Loveday said he hoped everyone would delve into Norfolk’s fascinating heritage.

He said: “The year before we took over there were 12 events in Norwich attracting 5,000 visits, and this year we have an amazing 226 events in the brochure and more late additions on the website. This massive array is due principally to the enormous number of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers who give their time to make the area’s ‘hidden heritage’ available to everyone. So come and have a great time discovering the secret past of Norwich and Norfolk.”

The free events - including open buildings, guided walks, and exhibitions - are taking place across Norwich, Thetford, South Norfolk, Broadland, Great Yarmouth, and North Norfolk.

Curat House/Fat Face. Curat House/Fat Face.

New HOD events for 2014 include: The Guildhall Literary Day, with talks on Norwich Murders, the Pettus family, the history of Bracondale, Robert Toppes, and Julian of Norwich; Norfolk in the First World War exhibition at Norfolk Record Office; heritage walks by the East Anglian Pilgrimage Network on the life of St Walstan and William of Norwich; and a World War One weekend at Barford, where the village pub is being transported back to the early war years and there will be WWI exhibitions and farm machinery.

• Cromer Signal Box

Cromer railway signal box, off Holt Road, is Grade II listed and was built by the Midland and Great Northern Railway in 1922.

Rosary Cemetery in Norwich. Rosary Cemetery in Norwich.

Last used operationally in 2000, it has been renovated by local volunteers.

• Curat House/Fat Face

The Fat Face clothes store in Norwich is housed in a 15th century merchant’s house. It is perhaps most fondly remembered as Backs wine merchants and bar. The HOD tour includes the undercroft and upper rooms.

Views from the control tower at the former RAF Coltishall. Photo: Bill Smith Views from the control tower at the former RAF Coltishall. Photo: Bill Smith

• Rosary Cemetery

Rosary Cemetery, in Rosary Road, Norwich, was the first non-denominational burial ground in England. Opened in 1821, many of the people buried here made major contributions to the life of 19th century Norwich.

Wymondham Abbey. Wymondham Abbey.

• King’s House

The King’s House, in King Street, Thetford, was used by James I as a hunting lodge and it bears the royal coat of arms above the doorway.

The building was remodelled during the 18th century. The town regalia will be on display in the council chamber during the HOD event.

Carrow Abbey in Norwich. Carrow Abbey in Norwich.

• RAF Coltishall

Former RAF Coltishall was an important Second World War and Cold War airfield. It was built as a bomber base in 1939 and changed to a fighter station in 1940. Between 1940 and 1945 it was home for more than 80 fighter squadrons. It was also a front-line fighter station in the Cold War. In 2006 the station closed. Part of the site has been converted into HMP Bure, and the rest is now owned by Norfolk County Council. The Spirit of Coltishall Association will be giving HOD tours in which visitors will see the former airbase’s technical area, a hangar, control tower, Second World War fighter pen, Cold War blast walls and missile stores.

• Wymondham Abbey

The Great Hospital, Norwich The Great Hospital, Norwich

This parish church is a former abbey with a 900-year-old roof, Norman nave, flying angel roof, two historic organs and glittering golden screen. The abbey originally started life as a Benedictine priory, and the monastery was founded in 1107 by William d’Aubigny, chief butler to King Henry I.

• Carrow Abbey

Carrow Abbey is a former Benedictine priory in Bracondale. Visitors are being given a rare chance to visit the 16th century rooms and 12th century ruins of one of Norwich’s least known monastic sites.

St Benet's Abbey. St Benet's Abbey.

• The Great Hospital

The Great Hospital, in Bishopgate, Norwich, was founded in 1249 to care for retired clergy and the poor. The site includes 15 listed buildings and has one of the smallest monastic cloisters in England.

• Great Yarmouth Minster

St Nicholas’ Church, in Great Yarmouth, was built in 1101 and is the largest parish church in the country. It was destroyed in the Second World War during a German air raid, with just the walls and towers left standing. It was restored by architect Stephen Dykes Bower between 1957 and 1961.

The HOD 2014 brochure has been produced in partnership with Broadland District Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council, South Norfolk Council, Thetford Town Council and Visit North Norfolk. Some events require pre-booking but for many events visitors can just drop in on the day. The brochure is available across Norfolk and at

• Are you involved in a heritage arts project in Norwich? Email arts correspondent Emma Knights at

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