Over a couple of weeks in September, several thousand buildings will open their doors to the public.
All are free, some need booking in advance, otherwise, just turn up on the day.
The list below is of the venues in the counties around London (and a couple inside) that look interesting places to visit and are generally not open to the public on other days.
A couple of tips:
Due to the geographically widespread nature of a UK-wide event, I suggest finding something that makes you go “ohhhh!”, then look around what else local is open on the same day that’s worth visiting. Lots of churches mainly, but in the larger older towns, you can easily have an entire day out.
If you plan several train trips to visit towns and don’t own a Network RailCard, buy one as it gets you a third off the cost of train tickets, and usually pays for itself after a couple of journeys.
Some of the venues that need booking will only accept a booking from a set date next month, on a day when they have staff/volunteers expecting the calls, so don’t call them until the correct day.
Shaw House was built in 1581 by Newbury clothier Thomas Dolman. This fine Elizabethan building was home to successive Dolman families, the flamboyant Duke of Chandos and the Andrews, Eyre and Farquhar families. Over this time the House played host to several royal visitors, including Elizabeth I.
You will have the opportunity to access many areas which are not normally open to the public.
- Saturday 11 September: Introductory talks 11.30am, 12.30, 1.30pm, 2.30pm (House and grounds open 11am – 4pm)
- Sunday 12 September: Introductory talks 11.30am, 12.30, 1.30pm, 2.30pm (House and grounds open 11am – 4pm)
View the Council Chamber, the Civic staircase, Mayor’s Parlour and the Town Hall portraits. Search the Roll of Honour of Mayors back to 1596. This year there will be a special display on the history of Newbury Market and the food industry in Newbury
- Saturday 18 September: 1000-1400
Tour and behind the scenes look at the building that is one of the UK’s most successful music venues, led by the original architect.
- Saturday 18 September: Tours at 1200, 1300 & 1400
Escorted court visits by magistrates.
Come and sit on the Bench and in the dock in an empty courtroom whilst being briefed about the work of the court and sentencing. Followed by a court observation, debrief and a Q&A session.
- Monday 13 September: 0930- 1245 and 1330- 1630
- Tuesday 14 September: 0930- 1245 and 1330- 1630
- Wednesday 15 September: 0930- 1245 and 1330- 1630
Visit the Mayor’s Parlour and Town Hall Chamber to see the display of Mayor’s Silverware, including the Mace and Civic robes. Sitting alongside our unique Key Worker Duck Heroes.
- Saturday 11 September: 1100-1600
Built in 1941, the RDF tower houses a very rare survivor from WWII, a type 287 aerial array. This is probably the only type 287 still in its original position. The tower monitored the minefield installed between Beacon Hill and Landguard Point and would have detected German Navy vessels as they entered the estuary. The RDF system had a range of 2.2 miles (3500 meters), enough to cover the entire minefield.
- Saturday 11 September: 11:00 – 15:00 (last admission 14:40)
- Sunday 12 September: 11:00 – 15:00 (last admission 14:40)
The High Lighthouse was built in 1818 to line up with the Low Lighthouse, now the Maritime Museum, 150 yards away. Together they operated as leading lights for shipping entering the estuary. It is a 90 ft high brick built Grade II* Listed building and was last used as a lighthouse in 1863. It has been in use as a radio museum and as a council house. Climb the 100 steps to the top for a dramatic view of the Harwich area.
- Saturday 11 September: 10:00-16:00
- Sunday 12 September: 10:00-16:00
This is the home of the master of the Mayflower, a majority of which is still in original condition. This house has been maintained as historically accurate as possible subject to modernisation such as electricity. The floor boards are believed to be original.
- Saturday 11 September: 11:00 – 15:00
- Sunday 12 September: 11:00 – 15:00
The former home of Loftus & Elizabeth Arkwright, Parndon Hall was built in 1867. Elizabeth decorated rooms with paintings, as was the fashion at the time, but now the house is used by the hospital and the original rooms have new purposes.
- Saturday 18 September: 11.00; 12.30; 14.00; 15.00
- Sunday 19 September: 11.00; 12.30; 14.00; 15.00
St John’s Abbey Gatehouse is one of Colchester’s most important medieval buildings. It has overlooked St John’s Green for over six hundred years and was built as an expression of the abbey’s wealth and power.
- Saturday 11 September: 13:00 – 16:00
- Saturday 18 September: 13:00 – 16:00
This Edwardian Baroque design by the prominent London architect John Belcher (1841-1913) was constructed between 1897-1902. The building was described by the architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner as ‘a triumphant expression of Colchester’s civic pride, the embodiment of the borough’s history and tradition’.
- Sunday 12 September: Tours at 1000 & 1100
Explore Scott’s Grotto, an 18th Century Grotto and Summerhouse hidden in a residential road in Ware.
- Saturday 11 September: 1400-1700
- Sunday 12 September: 1400-1700
Ware’s Grade I listed medieval hall, Place House Hall, will be open on Sunday 12th September. There will be a talk on the history of Place House by Miss Dorothy Abel Smith, Hertfordshire Building Preservation Trust.
- Sunday 12 September: 1100 – 1600
Lombard House, on the banks of the River Lea, is an historic Grade II* listed building, situated in the heart of Hertford town centre. Dating, in part, back to the 15th century, it has been the home of the Hertford Club since 1897.
- Saturday 11 September: 1200 – 1600
- Sunday 12 September: 1200 – 1600
An early sixteenth century Tudor Hall House with extremely rare and important wall paintings, created just before Henry VIII’s break with Rome – not usually open to the public.
- Saturday 18 September: Tours run on the hour, starting at 11 am
- Sunday 19 September: Tours run on the hour starting at 10 am
See the specialist skills, technology and vaults preserving the film and TV heritage of the nation. We’ll be hosting talks, demos, exhibits and mini-tours, all celebrating the National Collection and those integral to making it a world-class archive
- Sunday 12 September: 1030 – 1600
Amersfort, a fine Arts and Craft House and garden, designed by Ernest Willmott and planted by Gertrude Jekyll. Both house and garden are adapted to landscape.
- Monday 13 September: 1000 and 1430
A hard hat tour of the Church and find out more about the restoration of this iconic Sheppey landmark, as the building is restored to its former Georgian splendour as a business enterprise centre for young people.
- Saturday 11 September: 10:30 – 15:00
The Grange was built by A. W. Pugin, designer of the Palace of Westminster, in 1843-4 as his family home. The Grange offers total immersion in the Gothic Revival style – a must for any fan of the Victorian era.
- Saturday 18 September: 10:00-16:00
- Sunday 19 September: 10:00-16:00
A rare chance to see inside St Edward’s Presbytery, built by A. W. Pugin, designer of the Palace of Westminster, in 1850 as part of this great architect’s original conception for this exceptional Gothic Revival site on Ramsgate’s West Cliff.
- Saturday 11 September: 1000-1600
- Sunday 12 September: 1000-1600
Enjoy a tour incorporating the architectural features of this fine Georgian building, the richly decorated council chamber, the gaol and its graffiti.
- Tuesday 14 September: Tours at 9:30; 11:00; 12:30 & 14:00
- Thursday 16 September: Tours at 9:30; 11:00; 12:30 & 14:00
Deal Town Hall is an elegant Georgian Grade II listed building dating from 1803.
The Chamber (formerly Court Hall) is magnificent with many original paintings, panelling and roll boards naming former Mayors. The Mayor’s Parlour contains many historic artefacts including the Mace and the Charter of 1699.
- Saturday 18 September: 10:00 – 15:00
1544 Town Hall in Britain’s smallest town
Fordwich Town Hall dating back to 1544 is located in Fordwich, Britan’s smallest town. The tiny hall consists of a court room, jail (gaoul) and jury room as well as an under croft and crane house which hosts the mechanism operating the crane at the back of the hall by the river Stour.
- Friday 10 September – Saturday 18 September 14:00 – 16:30
See inside Broadstairs’ lovely old Grade II listed cinema. Take a quick look around or book in advance for a short talk on local cinema history.
- Friday 17 September: Open 11:00-14:00. Talks at 11:15, 13:15
- Saturday 18 September: Open 11:00-14:00. Talks at 11:15, 13:15
Join a guided tour around this unique museum. Through our objects and expertise, explore the UK’s vast contribution to Radio and Television manufacturing and broadcasting, from the early pioneering days of development to the mass media it became.
- Saturday 11 September: Tours 10:00, 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00
- Sunday 12 September: Tours 10:00, 12:00, 14:00 and 16:00
See the archaeological excavations and Tudor foundations at Scadbury Moated Manor – which still has its moat around it. Visitors can also see World War II defences and a restored shepherd’s hut.
- Saturday 11 September: 1400 – 1630
- Sunday 12 September: 1400 – 1630
A tiny, exquisite parish library founded in the early 18th century, a forerunner of today’s public libraries. Find out about its history, and the story of its remarkable founder, Andrew Cranston.
- Saturday 11 September: 10:00 – 16:00
The College is a well-kept secret. Explore the woodland walks, take a tour of the building with its three libraries and two chapels, learn about the story of Surrey’s hidden gem.
- Saturday 18 September: 10.30 – 16.30
Effingham Golf Club, Guildford Road, Effingham, Leatherhead, Surrey, KT24 5PZ
The Club House of the Golf Club (formerly Effingham House) originates from the early 18th century but was extensively extended and remodelled in the late 18th century. It became the manor house of Effingham manor in 1823. The recessed wings were added in 1880 and either side of the house are ancient Cedars which feature as our club emblem.
- Saturday 11 September: 9am to midday
The building has a timber framed core dating from the 17th century with a late 18th century façade. There were Medieval stone buildings on site at least from the 13th century that were later demolished. In 1799 Joseph Pickstone acquired the property next to the White Hart Inn, (currently Sainsbury’s store) and around that time created the building now known as The County Club.
- Saturday 18 September: 10.30am to 4.00pm
The Royal Grammar School: Grade 1 listed building dating from the late 16th century with later additions. The Chained Library and Tudor schoolroom are open. Information relating to the history of the School is on display in the schoolroom.
- Saturday 18 September
BOOKING NEEDED for some of the site
Charterhouse Hill, Godalming, Surrey, GU7 2DX
Guided tours including the South African cloisters, the Founder’s chapel, the Memorial chapel, the Main Hall, the library and the Scholars’ Court.
- Saturday 18 September: Tour 1000, 1230 & 1430
Visitors will be given the unique opportunity to participate in a full factory tour and look around our beautiful showroom. This is one of the few times the public will be able to view a range of our brick and roof tile products being created.
- Saturday 18 September
The full list is here