The weekend before London Open House Weekend, the rest of the UK does exactly the same thing, with a couple of thousand venues open to visit as part of Heritage Open Days.
Due to the geographically wide-spread nature of the venues, I tend to look for a town with a couple of really interesting places, then spend the rest of the day wandering around locally, as almost all of them have a good handful of churches to visit.
Most of the venues are open on Saturday or Sunday, but some will open on the Thur and Friday as well.
Looking at just the South-East of England, my personal pick of the more than 830 venues to visit include:
(Note, I’ve tended to avoid venues that can be visited at other times, as many are offering free visits, but you can visit and pay any other time of year)
The Warren, Shuttleworth Estate, Old Warden, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, SG18 9EB
Queen Anne’s Summerhouse is an early eighteenth-century brick-built folly located on the Shuttleworth Estate.
Church Road, Maulden, Bedfordshire, MK45 2AU
This is a fine example of one of the first mausolea to be built in this country with the earliest parts being built by Thomas Bruce
Involve Community Services, The Court House, Broadway, Bracknell, Berkshire, RG12 1AE
Guided tours of the former Magistrates’ Court in Bracknell.
Reading Cown Court, The Old Shire Hall, The Forbury, Reading, Berkshire, RG1 3EH
Come and see behind the behind the scenes at a busy Crown Court centre and learn more about the criminal justice system.
Cumberland Lodge, Windsor Great Park, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 2HP
Cumberland Lodge has been the home of an educational foundation since 1947. A former royal residence set in the heart of Windsor Great Park, it has a fascinating history dating back to the 17th century.
Aylesbury Crown Court, Old County Hall, Market Square (between The Bell and Arches, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 1XD
Visitors have the opportunity to join a tour of the Crown Court, where the culprits responsible for the Great Train Robbery were tried.
All Saints Church, Church Road, Bow Brickhill, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK17 9LQ
The church and tower are open for stunning views over the city and surrounding countryside.
Brighton Dome, 29 New Road, Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, BN1 1UG
Take a behind the scenes tour of Brighton Dome (and get a glimpse of the famed underground tunnel running beneath the Royal Pavilion Estate); hear fascinating lectures about the history of the estate and the development of the town.
1 Freshfield Way, Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, BN2 0LE
Join local history enthusiast Kevin Wilsher for a short introduction to the history of the Kemp Town branch line followed by a visit to the long forgotten railway tunnel.
Nautilus House, 90-100 Albion Street, Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, BN42 4ED
Join Shoreham Port for a ‘behind-the- scenes’ tour visiting areas of the Port that are normally off-limits to the public.
H M Prison, 1 Brighton Road, Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1EA
A rare chance to see inside this imposing Victorian building of 1853 with fine brick and flint walls. The tour, lasting about 1.5 hours, led by prison staff, will show many of the prison’s original features and explain how the prison has adapted over the years to meet changing requirements.
Essex County Council, Duke Street , Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1QH
A rare opportunity to visit and explore the historic Essex County Council Chamber and Foyer.
Essex & Suffolk Water,Sandon Valley House, Canon Barns Road, East Hanningfield, Chelmsford, Essex, CM3 8BD
The tour will show how raw reservoir water is treated and processed to produce excellent quality drinking water in the most sustainable way possible. This includes the ground breaking natural reed bed system, which is the first of its kind in the world.
132 Piccotts End, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP1 3AU
This is an opportunity to see very rare and fine examples of early sixteenth century wall paintings housed in a humble medieval timber framed building.
Clock Tower, Market Place, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 5DL
Climb the 93 steps to the top of St Albans Clock Tower and enjoy the magnificent views of the Cathedral, the historic city of St Albans and the beauty of the surrounding countryside.
Building Research Establishment, Bucknalls Lane, Watford, Hertfordshire, WD25 9XX
We will be opening the gates at BRE to allow access to the once top-secret model of the Möhne Dam used by Barnes Wallis in the first stage of developing the Bouncing Bomb.
H.M. Prison, 46 Longport, Canterbury, Kent, CT1 1PJ
A unique opportunity to see the 19th century prison with its cells and other features before the final alterations change it into student accommodation.
Archbishop Palace, Mill Street, Maidstone, Kent, ME15 6YE
A rare opportunity to look around this landmark building. This magnificent medieval ragstone Palace in its riverside setting was originally built as a resting place for the Archbishops of Canterbury on their way to London.
Liberty Property Trust UK, The Control Tower, 29 Liberty Square, Kings Hill, West Malling, Kent, ME19 4RG
Limited, timed access to view the cultural centre artwork exhibition and tour the renovated Control Tower building.
Victory Wood, Dargate Road,, Yorkletts, Whitstable, Kent, ME13 9EP
Come and explore the underground bunker, at the top of Victory Wood. The bunker was built to monitor nuclear attacks during the Cold War.
Royal Holloway University of London, Egham Hill, Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX
Explore its spectacular Grade I Listed Founder’s Building, Picture Gallery, Chapel and extensive grounds.
High Street, Guildford, Surrey, GU1 3AJ (Distance: 31 miles)
Grade I listed building. Jacobean Alms-house, still used for its original purpose.
St Martin’s Church Yard, Ockham Road South, East Horsley, Guildford, Surrey, KT24 6RL
Grade II listed building, built by the 1st Earl of Lovelace at the end of the 19th century, in the unique Lovelace architectural style that dominates East Horsley, a combination of flint, with moulded red, white and black terracotta brickwork.
Wanborough, Guildford, Surrey, GU3 2JR
The Great Barn is the oldest standing wooden structure in South East England and an impressive and inspiring example of 14th century building.
Between 107 and 109 York Road, Woking, Surrey, GU21
This building was constructed for British Railways electrification in the 1930s for the purpose of the power distribution network, and contains several original Art Deco features.
St. Columbas House, Maybury Hill, Woking, Surrey, GU22 8AB
Rarely open to the public, come and look inside St Columba’s House Christian Retreat and Conference centre.