Hidden treasures on view

An army of volunteers has been recruited in Norwich to act as guides at a host of venues for the prestigious Heritage Open Days event next month.

An army of volunteers has been recruited in Norwich to act as guides at a host of venues for the prestigious Heritage Open Days event next month.

They will staff numerous venues across the city and provide a fascinating insight into places that are normally hidden from public view.

Norwich is the host city for the national festival and has lined up more than 130 venues to be open for the occasion, a new national record.

Heritage Open Days runs from September 8-11. Across the UK, it is estimated that more than 2700 buildings and places will be open.

The official launch will take place at Norwich Cathedral on September 1 with speeches from various dignitaries including Norfolk-based writer Bill Bryson who is patron of the Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (Heart), which is co-ordinating the project in Norwich.

Heart has brought together the events and recruited the volunteers to staff them. Heart's HoD manager Sophie Cabot said: “The volunteers have come to us in a number of ways. Some are owners of private houses, others are security guards, blue badge guides, members of friends groups or associated with churches. There is a complete mixture.

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“What they will be doing is showing people around, keeping an eye on the place and generally answering questions and sharing their enthusiasm for a venue.”

Throughout the four days, many of Norwich's hidden secrets will be open to the public. These include a Norman House beneath Norwich magistrates' court, the Costume and Textile Study Centre at Carrow House and a chance to see the factory workshop behind the shoe shop façade of Bowhill and Elliot in London Street, along with many more.

Norwich Heart hopes to bring the full spectrum of the city's hidden heritage to light offering an insight into places ancient, medieval and modern.

Some of the events have to be pre-booked and this can be done through the Tourist Information Centre at The Forum but generally people can simply turn up for most events.

Everything is free over the four days of the festival, even sites where there is normally an admission fee.

Over the festival passageways, undercrofts, meeting rooms and other fabulous hidden interiors that are often away from the public gaze will be on show.

Chapels, synagogues and medieval churches - or parts of them not normally open to the public - will be revealed too.

There will be themed routes and tours, with volunteer guides bringing many of these hidden attractions to life.

Norwich Heart chief executive Michael Loveday said: “Norwich Heart is delighted to have attracted such a high profile event launch to the city.

“Heart believes that Norwich has a heritage resource of truly international importance this year.

“With our heritage partners, we hope to deliver the biggest, most diverse and enjoyable Heritage Open Days event in England.”


Heritage Open Days: www.heritageopendays.org


One of the hidden treasures of Norwich to be on show for Heritage Open Days is an historic private house along St Benedict's.

Known as the Queen of Hungary, and above the flower shop “pick-a-lily”, the house is about 500 years old and once belonged to a merchant.

Current owner Professor Peter Brimblecombe has enthusiastically agreed to open the property on the afternoon of September 10 to allow people a rare insight into the 16th century home.

It features exposed beams throughout, a Jacobean window and a fascinating lamp niche, complete with small chimney.

Prof Brimblecombe, a scientist at the University of East Anglia, will also act as volunteer guide.

He said: “It is hard for people just to look at the property, they want to know its history, to ask about certain things and feel the vibe of the house.

“It is a fantastic house and it is a pleasure to be able to share it and I believe it is really important that Norwich shows these places, it is part of its underlying heritage.”

The house is thought to have been named the Queen of Hungary because English soldiers who fought for Princess Elizabeth of Austria - often referred to as the Queen of Hungary - congregated there.

Prof Brimblecombe said the property probably belonged to a poorer merchant, most likely a leather merchant, because of the chapel dedicated to leather makers in the nearby St Swithin's Church and the presence of sumac trees for tanning in a nearby orchard.