One weekend in March, the National Trust is opening up almost all of its buildings to the public free of charge. You need to download a voucher to gain free entry to the buildings, and that then gets you into as many properties as you want on the 20thâ€“21st March 2010.
The only caveats are that you need to register for the voucher (I could link to directly to the voucher, but that would be naughty) and print out a copy. Also some of the venues might not be open as planned, so you should check their special event website a few days before the weekend to be sure your plans are not made of mice and men.
Also, during the weekend you can join the National Trust while you are there and if you pay by Direct Debit, you will get two months free.
For your (and frankly, my) convenience, I have scanned through the properties within the M25 that should be open over the weekend, and put the details below.
The price in brackets is how much it would normally cost if you visited any other time – should you be choosing where to go based on how much you can save over the weekend. I haven’t listed any of the properties that are normally free to visit, but they should be open as normally anyway.
National Trust Properties in London
2 Willow Road, Hampstead, NW3 (Â£5.50)
This unique Modernist home was designed by architect ErnÃ¶ Goldfinger in 1939 for himself and his family. With surprising design details that were ground-breaking at the time and still feel fresh today, the house also contains the Goldfingers’ impressive collection of modern art, intriguing personal possessions and innovative furniture
This charming 17th-century merchant’s house has remained architecturally little altered during more than 300 years of continuous occupation, while the large garden is also remarkably unchanged since it was described in 1756 as ‘pleasant… well planted with fruit-trees, and a kitchen garden, all inclos’d with a substantial brick wall‘. Lady Katherine Binning bought the house in 1936 and filled it with her highly decorative collections of porcelain, Georgian furniture and 17th-century needlework. The sound of early keyboard instruments and the colours of early 20th-century drawings and paintings add to a captivating experience
Sutton House, Hackney, E9 (Â£2.90)
Built in 1535 by prominent courtier of Henry VIII, Sir Ralph Sadleir, Sutton House retains much of the atmosphere of a Tudor home despite some alterations by later occupants, including a succession of merchants, Huguenot silkweavers, and squatters. Discover oak-panelled rooms, original carved fireplaces and a charming courtyard
Eastbury Manor House, Barking, IG11 (Â£2.50)
Important brick-built Tudor gentry house, completed about 1573, little altered since. Early 17th-century wall-paintings showing fishing scenes and a cityscape grace the former Great Chamber. Evocative exposed timbers in attic, fine original spiral oak staircase in turret, soaring chimneys, cobbled courtyard, peaceful walled garden with bee boles
Rainham Hall, Rainham, RM13 (Â£2.80)
Red House, Bexleyheath, DA6 (Â£7.60)
The only house commissioned, created and lived in by William Morris, founder of the Arts & Crafts movement, Red House is a building of extraordinary architectural and social significance. When it was completed in 1860, it was described by Edward Burne-Jones as ‘the beautifullest place on earth’. Only recently acquired by the Trust, the house is not fully furnished, but the original features and furniture by Morris and Philip Webb, stained glass and paintings by Burne-Jones, the bold architecture and a garden designed to ‘clothe the house’, add up to a fascinating and rewarding place to visit
Claremont is a beautiful garden surrounding a small lake and featuring an unusual grass amphitheatre. The garden’s creation and development has involved great names in garden history, including Sir John Vanbrugh, Charles Bridgeman, William Kent and ‘Capability’ Brown. In 1726 it was described as ‘the noblest of any in Europe’ and the garden today is of national importance. Visitors walking round the lake will see the island and pavilion, grotto and many viewpoints and vistas. There are hidden features to enjoy as well as wider estate walks and a new children’s play area
A 400-year-old treasure trove waiting to be discovered and one of a series of grand houses and palaces alongside the River Thames. Ham House and Garden is an unusually complete survival of the 17th century that impressed in its day and continues to do so today. Rich in history and atmosphere, Ham is largely the vision of Elizabeth Murray, Countess of Dysart, who was deeply embroiled in the politics of the English Civil War and subsequent restoration of the monarchy. The fine interiors and historic gardens make this an unusual and fascinating place to visit
With a spectacular mansion surrounded by gardens, park and farmland, Osterley is one of the last surviving country estates in London. Once described as ‘the palace of palaces’, Osterley was created in the late 18th century by architect and designer Robert Adam for the Child family to entertain and impress their friends and clients. Today you can explore the dazzling interior with handheld audio-visual guides, which bring the house to life in a completely new way. Outside the gardens are a delightful retreat from urban life and the park is perfect for picnics and leisurely strolls