Secrets of historic city

MARK NICHOLLS Thousands of people are expected to visit up to 140 attractions across Norwich over the next few days to discover a hidden facet of the city's heritage.


Thousands of people are expected to visit up to 140 attractions across Norwich over the next few days to discover a hidden facet of the city's heritage.

Numerous attractions not normally open to the public will invite people in free of charge to explore unseen aspects of culture and history from today until Sunday.

Other popular attractions will provide access to nooks and crannies not normally seen by visitors as part of the Heritage Open Days (HOD) festival.

Norwich is the host city for the national event, billed as Britain's biggest celebration of architecture, history and culture, and hoping to bring to a wider audience hidden treasures and the sites not normally open to the public.

In addition to the 140 attractions - a new record for a host city - there are 300 places open as part of HOD in East Anglia and 3000 nationwide in the event backed by English Heritage and the Civic Trust.

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Locally, the festival is being driven by Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (Heart).

Heart's HOD manager Sophie Cabot said: "We have not had this many places open before and nowhere else has this many either. This a great chance for people to see places, some that they will not have had the opportunity to see before and I would urge people to come out and see them."

In Norwich the locations open for HOD range from churches and medieval buildings through to more recent elements of the city's heritage such as the Bowhill & Elliott shoe shop on London Street, where footwear is still made on the site, or St Catherine's House, once the home of the BBC.

Elsewhere, private homes such as the Queen of Hungary, a late medieval house on St Benedict's, are being opened by their owners.

St James Mill, the church of St Mary the Less on Queen Street - not open to the public for two decades - and the John Jarrold Print Museum will also be among sites inviting in guests.

Other historic private houses, shops, offices and small factories that hide some of Norwich's medieval history or portray the city's industrial and commercial heritage will also be open.

Also open to visits are The Archive Centre at County Hall, The Assembly House and parts of the University of East Anglia campus.

While many of Norwich's fine medieval churches will be open, the Churches Conservation Trust points out that many other churches across the region will also be taking part in HOD.

These include St Mary the Virgin Church at Wiggenhall; All Saints Church, West Harling; St Nicholas Chapel, King's Lynn; St Mary's Church, Barton Bendish and St Mary's Church, Bungay.

There will also be an archery demonstration over the four days from 8.30am-4pm on the meadow near the Cow Tower in Norwich.

And there are a number of spaces left on organised tours along King Street, a literary walk, the Roman Catholic Cathedral tower, the Rosary Cemetery and visits to the St Giles Rooms and the Playhouse on the Theatre History Walk, among others.

Over the four days, numerous buildings in the city will be open with free admission, including those that normally charge.

The 2005 event was formally launched last Thursday at Norwich Cathedral with Norwich Heart patron and best-selling travel writer Bill Bryson enthusing over Norwich's cultural and architectural heritage.

Heart will receive a major boost today with the presentation of a cheque for £500,000 to Norwich Heart by Barclays Bank, allowing it to continue its work in making the city's heritage more accessible to the people of Norwich.

Details of the 120-plus locations open to the public can be found in the glossy publicity brochure Discover Secret Norwich, available from the Tourist Information Centre in The Forum.

To book a place on a tour, visit the Norwich Tourist Information Centre at The Forum or call 01603 727927.

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