Opening their doors - 20 places to visit during Heritage Open Days
PUBLISHED: 14:35 14 September 2018 | UPDATED: 09:46 18 September 2018
Stately homes, castles, ruins, windmills, gardens and historic boats are all welcoming visitors free of charge for this year’s Heritage Open Days.
While this is a national festival, support is especially strong in the East of England. Altogether, around 900 events are taking place across the region, including walks, talks, workshops and exhibitions.
But, as ever, one of the strongest attractions is the invitation to visit sites may which otherwise request an entry charge, or perhaps are not normally open to the public at all.
Heritage Open Days were originally just one weekend, but this year, for the first time in its 24-year history, the event is taking in two long weekends, covering September 6 to 9 and 13 to 16. Here is a look at just 20 out of the host of quirky and interesting places you can visit around the area.
For full details of everything that’s open and directions, visit the Heritage Open Days website. Be aware that often special events and guided tours do require prebooking and some are already completely booked up.
1. Bardwell Windmill, near Bury St Edmunds
This historic mill is believed to date from the 1820s. It served the community until the 1940s, and is now back in working order again after a recent restoration. If there is enough wind on the open days, you will be able to see the sails turning. Opening times: September 15-16: 10.30-5pm. Bakery open: Saturday only, 9am-1pm.
2. Norwich Puppet Theatre
Last year, Norwich staged the highest number of Heritage Open Day events for any city in England, and this year it is putting on even more, 206 compared to 182 in 2017, One of them is this unique venue. Well-known for its range of productions, this is one of only three puppet theatres in the UK to be based in a building. The building in question is the redundant St James Church (also known as St James the Less), which dates back to the 15th century, If you visit on the open days, you can see the puppet collection and try making your own puppets in a family workshop, as well as taking a self-guided tour of the building. Opening times: September 8: 10am-4pm, September 9: 12noon to 4pm. Last admission 3.40pm. There is no need to pre-book for these two days, but there are also guided tours and talks at 11am on September 6, 7, 13 and 14 which do need to be booked.
3. Landguard Fort and Martello Tower P, Felixstowe
There have been fortifications on the Landguard Peninsula over the centuries, with the current fort dating from the 18th century, There is a nature reserve nearby, so you could combine a visit to the two. You can park close to the fort. Another fascinating fortification is the Martello Tower P on Langer Road, which was built in the Napoleonic Wars, Visitors will be able to see the inside of the tower and view the town and coastline from the top, with tours starting every half an hour. Opening times: September 9, Landguard Fort 10am-5pm, Martello Tower 10am-3pm. No need to book for tower tours.
4. Old Bell, Ipswich
Once the oldest pub in Ipswich and now a funeral directors’ premises, this timber-framed building has been lovingly restored. Parts of the building may date back to the 1500s. If you take a look round the building, look out for the carved corner post which features a cat-like creature as well as a bell. Opening times: September 15, 10am-4pm
5. The Corn Hall, Diss
This is your chance to take a guided tour of the Corn Hall, which has reopened after an extensive refurbishment, and find out more about the history of the building. The Corn Hall is now an arts venue which puts on a wide range of films, art exhibitions and other events. You are invited to take a 45-minute guided tour around the building (no need to book) and learn about the history of the building. There are also various Brush with the Past workshop events lined up on the history of brush-making in South Norfolk. Oxblood Molly Dancers will be performing broom dances outside the Corn Hall and in the market place on September 15. Opening times: September 13-14, guided tours at 10.30am and 11.15am. Saturday, September 15, Brush with the Past drop-in family workshop, 10am-2pm, Talk on History of Brush Making in South Norfolk, 12-12.30pm. Pre-booking for Saturday’s events preferred.
6. Thorington Hall, Stoke by Nayland
This fine timber-framed hall is a National Trust property, but is usually a holiday let, so this is an unusual opportunity to go inside and look around. The farmhouse partly dates back to the 1400s, and has a great hall and massive chimney and many other historic features. Light refreshments will be available, and you can park in the adjoining field. Opening times: September 8, 11am-4pm.
7. Mincarlo Fishing Trawler, Lowestoft
Lowestoft is set to host more than 70 events for this year’s Heritage Open Days, more than any other town in Suffolk, including guided history and ghost walks, shows and concerts. One of the most unusual places you can visit is the historic Mincarlo fishing trawler, moored at the Heritage Quay, South Pier, which is the last surviving complete siwewinder trawler from the town’s fishing fleet. The boat was built in 1961 in the Brooke Marine yards. Visitors will be able to tour the vessel and see a display of old photos showing it in the past. Mincarlo’s engines will be running on September 13. Opening times: September 8-9 and 13-16, 10.30am-3.30pm.
8. Broomhill Baths Ipswich
This much-loved outdoor lido sadly closed down in 2002, but since then there have been determined efforts to save it by the Broomhill Pool Trust, and developer Fusion Lifestyle has plans for it to reopen in 2020. Visitors will be able to look around and learn about the 80-year history of the pool, which opened in 1938. Opening times: September 15-16, 10am-4pm.
9. Royal Naval Hospital, Great Yarmouth
Would you like to see what a hospital was like in days gone by? Built in the early 19th century, this former Navy hospital treated 600 soldiers who were injured at the battle of Waterloo. It then became a naval HQ and co-ordinated mine-sweeping operations during the Second World War, before returning to healthcare use as the NHS’s St Nicholas Hospital in 1958. Then in the 1990s it was turned into apartments and houses, but the chapel and former Nightingale Ward were left in their original conditions and will be open for guided tours during the Heritage Open Days. Opening times: September 15-16, 11am-3pm.
10. EcoDIY, Clacton
While many buildings taking part in the open days are ancient, this bungalow dates from the 1930s. It has been turned into a permaculture demonstration project promoting low energy use and recucled water, as well as use of solar power. Visitors can see the methods used and the organic vegetable beds, chickens and beehives. The house is 193 Burrs Road. Opening times: September 15-16, 10.30am-4.30pm.
11. 36 High Street, Lowestoft
This townhouse and shop are believed to be the oldest house in Lowestoft. The building dates from Tudor times, with an amazing moulded ceiling. Over more recent years it has been used as an antiques shop and previously a general stores, with sweets being made in the cellar. It is a family home, and the owners are keen to welcome visitors who remember the shop in the past. Opening times: September 15, 11am-4pm, September 16, 12noon to 4pm. Visiting is also possible by appointment on September 9, 13 and 14.
12. St Gregory’s Church/Simon’s Head, Sudbury
This impressive medieval church is famously where the head of Simon of Sudbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was attacked and beheaded in 1381,during the Peasants’ Revolt. The Heritage Open Days offer a chance to see the head, which is not usually available for public viewing, as well as seeing around the church and climbing 102 steps to the top of the tower. There are great views from the tower of the River Stour and surrounding landscapes, so you can get some memorable photos from here. Opening times: September 8: Church and Simon’s Head, 10am-5pm, Tower, 10am-12noon.
13. Horsey Windpump, Great Yarmouth
It has been 75 years since this iconic windpump was last in use, but it is currently undergoing major restoration and its sails will soon be turning once again. If you visit, you will be able to learn more about its history and how important windpumps were in drainage of the Norfolk Broads, and you will also have the chance to speak to the restoration team. The windpump has seen many dramas over the years, including floods and lightning strikes. It is one of a number of sites which are opening in the Great Yarmouth area. Opening times: September 8-9 and September 13-16, 10am-4.30pm.
14. Roman Theatre, Colchester
Learn more about Colchester’s Roman heritage by seeing this small area of the foundations of a theatre which once had space for a 3,000-strong audience. The theatre’s remains, in Maidenburgh Street, were only discovered during excavations in the 1980s. It is believed to have featured in Boudicca’s destruction of Colchester in AD60. Opening times: September 8, 9.45am-4.30pm, September 9, 10am-4.30pm.
15. The Plantation Garden, Norwich
Now’s your chance to discover this Grade II English Heritage-registered garden, which is open free for one day only, with live music and refreshments. Close to the Catholic Cathedral, the garden covers nearly three acres and has a Gothic fountain and Italianate fountain, s well as a summerhouse. Opening times: September 9, 10am-4pm.
16. Redoubt Fort, Harwich
This Napoleonic fort was buit in 1808 to defend the north Essex town against invastion, and has 11 guns on its battlements. It has been restored and has many interesting items to see, as well as offering great views of the whole surrounding area. Opening times: September 15-16, 10am-2pm.
17. Greenland Fishery, King’s Lynn
Historic King’s Lynn has a packed programme of openings this year, with September 16 being chosen as the date for buildings around the town to throw their doors open. You can visit houses, offices, gardens, churches, towers and tunnels not normally open to the public, and there will also be many special events and re-enactments, and free vintage buses. Greenland Fishery is a timbered house in Nelson Street, which dates from 1605 and was originally owned by wealthy trader John Atkin. Over the centuries it has also served as a whaling pub, bakery and museum. Adding to the atmosphere, costumed guides will explain features of the building including the wall paintings and wood panels. There will also be a display of leather whales handcrafted on site. Opening times: September 16, 10am-4pm
18. Naze Tower, Walton-on-the-Naze
If you feel up to climbing to the top of thisi 86ft tower, you can enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding landscape. The tower was built in the early 18th century and originally had a beacon on the top to guide ships. It includes an art gallery with exhibitions by East Anglian artists, as well as a museum about the tower’s history and a tearooms. Opening times: September 15, 10am-5pm
19. Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse, Dereham
A popular heritage attraction covering a 50-acre site, this museum has huge collections about the lives of ordinary people in Norfolk over past centuries. The workhouse offers a chance to learn what lives were like for people who lived there, and there are also displays about the history of farming, a re-creation ofa 1950s home, historic vehicles and engines and much more. As well as the museum galleries, visitors will be able to explore the gardens and orchard and meet local metal detectorists and learn more about the treasures found in Norfolk. Opening times: September 9, 10am-5pm
20. Woolverstone Hall, near Ipswich
This Grade I listed 18th-century mansion is the home of Ipswich High School, on the banks of the River Orwell. It is not normally open to the public, although weddings and other special events can be held there. It was designed by architect John Johnson, and is regarded as one of the best-surviving examples of his work. The house was built for William Berners, who kept pet monkeys, which raised the alarm when the hall caught fire, and following this he had images and statues of monkeys made, so you might spot some of these. Opening times: September 9, 1-3.30pm