Heritage open days

Many castles, churches and public venues will be opening their doors in September as part of a scheme called European Heritage Days.

The idea was launched in Granada (Spain) on 3 October 1985, during the Second Conference of European Ministers responsible for Architectural Heritage of the Council of Europe.

A number of blue plaque and heritage walks are on offer

A number of blue plaque and heritage walks are on offer throughout the heritage weekend

On that occasion, the French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang,  suggested that the “Monuments Open Doors” scheme launched in France in 1984 should be extended to other European countries.

Several countries such as the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Malta, Belgium, the United Kingdom (Scotland) and Sweden soon set up similar events.

In 2010 the European Heritage Days celebrate their 25th Anniversary.

European Heritage Days is an initiative of the Council of Europe supported by the European Union.

The event is supported in 49 countries.

Find out about events and highlights in your area

In England – Heritage Open Days

From Cumbria to Cornwall, Northumberland to Norfolk, properties across England will throw open their doors for free, as part of the country’s annual celebration of local architecture, history and culture.

Supported nationally by English Heritage and run locally by an army of volunteers and community champions, Heritage Open Days takes place on people doorstops and is the country’s leading grassroots cultural event.

[pullquote]It offers a chance to explore those local landmarks which however familiar, are normally closed…
Baroness Andrews, OBE
Chair of English Heritage[/pullquote]One million people are expected to take advantage of the four day event in England, exploring more than 4,000 properties of every style, period and function, many of which are normally closed to the public.

Heritage Open Days offers people the chance to visit those historic, cultural and architectural gems not normally open to the public or which usually charge an admission fee. There is also an extensive events programme run by local organisers at museums, churches, historic parks and elsewhere, ranging from re-enactments of Roman life to battlefield walks.

Baroness Andrews, OBE, Chair of English Heritage, said: “Heritage Open Days is about people and places. It offers a chance to explore those local landmarks which however familiar, are normally closed and therefore mysterious and alluring.

Not only are the secrets and history laid bare, but it means you can meet the people who live or work in those buildings and who are delighted to share their knowledge and enthusiasm.

Wreay Church , Cumbria

Wreay Church is a small church designed by Sarah Losh.

Those are the people who, by dedicating their spare time to opening properties and organising activities, make Heritage Open Days the huge success it is. ”

Heritage open Day highlights – England

  • The Battle of Britain command centre – Bentley Priory in Stanmore, Hertfordshire Closed to the general public during its 70 years as an RAF base. Re-enactors will re- create the tensions within the Operations Room and there will be a Spitfire and Hurricane flying display.
  • The Second World War Beacon Hill Radar Tower at Harwich, Essex and the Royal Air Force College in Cranwell, Lincolnshire will also be open.
  • The 18th-century ironstone Gothic Temple at Stowe, Buckinghamshire with its circular domed vault and magnificent views over the Stowe Landscape Gardens.
  • The Fisherman’s Hospital in Great Yarmouth, Norfolk was founded in 1702 to provide housing for old or “decayed” fishermen who could no longer support themselves. There are charming ornamental details and Saint Peter, patron saint of fishermen, stands proud on the roof of the brick building.
  • The North of England’s great Victorian theatres open their doors with special backstage tours of both The Journal Tyne Theatre and The Theatre Royal in Newcastle upon Tyne and Leeds’ Grand Theatre & Opera House.
  • Wreay Church, Cumbria – Unique small church packed with carvings, stained glass, niches, designed by Sarah Losh.

Further information from the website – Heritage Open Days

London – Open House London

Open House London, the capital’s greatest architectural showcase, will take place on 18 & 19 September 2010.

The initiative is a simple but powerful concept: hundreds of great buildings of all types and periods open up their doors to all, completely for free.

There are over 700 buildings, neighbourhood walks, architects’ talks, cycle tours and more, all over London to choose from…major landmarks such as BT Tower, to small private homes and everything in between.

Further information from the website – Open House London

In Scotland – Doors Open Days

Doors Open Days is Scotland’s largest free annual architectural event.

The event first took place in Glasgow and Ayr in 1990 where it formed part of the European City of Culture celebrations. This year the theme is based upon ‘Celebrating the 20th anniversary of Doors Open Days’.

Heritage Days events are being held throughout Europe

Heritage Days events are being held throughout Europe

Other areas started to participate the following year and has now grown to cover almost every area of Scotland.

More than 800 buildings are expected to open, generating over 200,000 visits to sites and hidden architectural gems of all kinds in locations throughout Scotland.

It is coordinated nationally in Scotland by the Scottish Civic Trust and is part of European Heritage Days along side Scottish Archaeology Month, coordinated by Archaeology Scotland (formerly known as the Council for Scottish Archaeology).  Both are supported by Historic Scotland.

Highlights in Scotland

  • Dundee (18th September) are showcasing buildings linked to education and science.  The University of Dundee’s Book & Paper Conservation Studio will run tours at 10.15 and 11.15. The Book and Paper Conservation Studio is a highly specialised resource within Scotland where a team of conservators care for our national heritage. They deal with everything from world-class collections of museums and archives, to single, cherished items belonging to members of the public.
  • East Lothian (5th September) with the ‘Friends of Musselburgh Links’ are holding an open day at the new Stables Pavilion at Musselburgh Racecourse, Linkfield Road, from 12 to 4 pm. Displays will include the history of the Golf Course and the development of the reclaimed land. Information will also be available on the local bird life, the John Muir Way and other related activities.
  • If you happen to be in the Aberdeen area then the National Hyperbaric Centre is taking part on the 11 September 2010. More details here

Further information from the website – Doors Open Days

Scottish Archaeology Month

Also running in September as part of European Heritage Days is ‘Scottish Archaeology Month’.

Scottish Archaeology Month is coordinated by Archaeology Scotland and celebrates Scotland’s rich archaeological heritage through a diverse programme of free events held all over the country.

Further details are available www.scottisharchaeologymonth.com, or by telephoning 0845 872 3333.

In Wales – Open Doors 2010 – Drysau Agored 2010

Open Doors Logo

Open Doors Logo

Open Doors 2010 is organised by the  Civic Trust for Wales. The theme for events in Wales is Buildings, places, people.

Highlights in Wales include:

  • Caerphilly Castle – 12 September 2010.  10 – 5pm One of the largest medieval fortresses in Britain, begun in 1268 by the Anglo-Norman marcher lord, Gilbert de Clare. Concentrically planned, the rings of stone and water defences are formidable even today. Famous for its ‘leaning tower’.
  • BBC Broadcasting House 19 Sep 9.30 – 11.00, 11.30 – 1.00, 1.30 – 3.00 Designed by Sir Percy Thomas and Son, built by Sir Robert McAlpine and Sons (South Wales) Ltd. and opened by HRH Princess Margaret on 1st March 1967, Broadcasting House is the main broadcast base for BBC Wales.
  • Bodnant Garden – 11 Sep 10 – 5 Free entry to this magnificent National Trust garden which covers 80 acres.

Further information from the website – Open Doors 2010

In Northern Ireland – European Heritage Open Days

Managed and promoted by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA)

This year the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) are also holding 14 free ‘Bringing History Alive’ re-enactment events at a number of sites across Northern Ireland.

Free entrance is available at many attractions and events

Free entrance is available at many attractions and events

European Heritage Open Days (EHOD) will take place on Saturday 11 and Sunday 12 September 2010 in Northern Ireland.  Over 260 events and properties are open for you to visit during the weekend and they are all free of charge!

Highlights in Northern Ireland include:

  • Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office – Saturday, 11 September 2010 and Sunday, 12 September 1pm to 5pm –  Corporation Square, Belfast.  The east front was designed in 1854 by the Board Engineer, George Smith. The second phase of 1895 contains the splendid public rooms. Many historic paintings, statues, model ships and iconic Titanic table.
  • Stormont Castle – Saturday, 11 September 2010 and Sunday, 12 September  10am to 4pm, last entry 3pm – The original ‘house’ was erected on the site around 1830. It was enlarged in 1858 with the addition of a new entrance tower and waiting room, creating with the addition of turrets and battlements, the ‘Baronial’ castle in existence today.
  • Wellbrook Beetling Mill – Saturday 11 September 2:00pm to 6:00pm, Last tour 5:00pm – 20 Wellbrook Road, Corkhill, Cookstown – The last working water-powered linen beetling mill in Northern Ireland offers a unique experience for all the family and hands on demonstrations. Children are encouraged to help with the demonstrations of scutching and hackling.

Further information from the website – European Heritage Days

Elsewhere in Europe – European Heritage Days

Further information from the website – Heritage Open Days


Please note that although many venues have removed admission charges for this event, it is always best to check before being disappointed.  Additional charges may apply for car-parking and brochures/ leaflets.

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