For a couple of weeks in September, thousands of buildings across the UK, mostly outside London, are open to the public.

The Heritage Open Days is a UK-wide version of the London Open House events, and while the vast majority are open to wander in and look around, some need booking in advance. They range from old buildings to theatres to sewage pumping stations.

Some are taking bookings now, but many won’t be for a week or two, so now is the time to plan your day trips to (mostly) outside London, and put notes in your diary for when the tickets are released.

My personal tip is to find something you really want to visit, then check their website for all the other buildings in the area that are also open. For smaller towns, that’s mainly churches, but the larger towns and cities can easily fill a day out.

The full search is here.

Below is the current list of venues that need booking in advance in the southeast of England.

Happy hunting.


Luton – Bute Mills

  • Saturday 9th September: 2pm & 3pm

Over the years Bute Mills has been a flour mill, hat factory and even a fertiliser plant and an ad agency, before falling into disrepair. In 2015, a £2.4 million refurbishment saw it transform into a youth centre for the community in Luton – and home to a local charity, Youthscape.


Reading -Foxhill House

  • Saturday 9th September: 11am
  • Sunday 10th September: 11am

Foxhill House is a fine example of mid-Victorian architecture. Designed by Alfred Waterhouse, it is situated on raised ground near the northern corner of the University campus overlooking the meadows down to the Whiteknights lake.

Reading – Museum Store Tours

  • Thursday 14th September: Tours at 11am, 12.15pm, 2pm and 3.15pm

Tours are in small groups (up to 6) led by Museum staff and last about 45 minutes.

Reading – Watlington House

  • Friday 15th September: Open from 9am to 4pm.

You will hear about its history from the Tudor Period to today and the garden restoration and have the opportunity to meet some of the tenants.

Reading – Fobney Water Turbine House

  • Sunday 10th September: Tours at 10am, 11am, noon, 2pm and 3pm

A Thames Water site and waterworks.

Reading – Berkshire Record Office

  • Saturday 9th September: 10.30am

Get a closer look at where we store the archives and how they look after them in order to preserve the history of the Royal County of Berkshire for future generations.


Milton Keynes – The Stables Theatre Building Tour

  • Sunday 10th September: Tours: 11am, noon & 1pm

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.

Milton Keynes – Tours of The Open University Campus

  • Wednesday 13 September: Noon
  • Thursday 14 September: 2:30pm
  • Friday 15 September: 1:30pm

Visit the Walton Hall campus and find out about the history of the site and The Open University. This event will include a guided 45 minute tour of key areas of the campus, and information and archive displays in the Betty Boothroyd Library.

Amersham – Penn House

  • Sunday 17th September: 10am & 11:30am

Ground floor tour, mainly paintings and naval memorabilia.A number of tours with small groups will be guided by Earl and Countess Howe in person.


Harlow – The Playhouse

  • Thursday 14th September: 11am, noon, 14pm & 15pm
  • Friday 15th September: 11am, noon, 14pm & 15pm

Let us take you behind the scenes to explore the backstage secrets of what makes a spectacular Harlow Playhouse Production

Colchester – Jumbo Water Tower

  • Saturday 16 September: Tours 10am, 11am, 1pm & 2pm

This is a rare opportunity to climb the largest water tower in England with amazing views from the top over Colchester city centre and beyond.

Chelmsford – Theatre Backstage Tour

  • Saturday 16 September: 10am & 11:30am

Tread the boards, glimpse into our dressing rooms, and walk centre stage with a backstage tour at Chelmsford Theatre.


West Malling – St Mary’s Abbey

  • Sunday 10th September: 2pm to 3pm

St Mary’s Abbey was founded in 1090 for Benedictine nuns and is now home to a community of Anglican nuns. You will see buildings from the medieval period, the Grade II* listed Abbey Church (1966), the nuns’ Chapter House and 13th Century cloister.

Maidstone – Town Hall Tours

  • Wednesday 13 September: 9am; 10:30am & noon
  • Thursday 14 September: 9am; 10:30am & noon

Enjoy a tour incorporating the architectural features of this fine Georgian building, the richly decorated council chamber, the gaol and its graffiti.

Chatham – University of Greenwich, Medway campus

  • Wednesday 13 September: 5:30pm

Uncover 120 years of history to find out how a Royal Naval Barracks became a modern university. Join us to step back in time to 1903 to see what it was like and discover the secrets of Medway Campus.


Reigate – Barchester Healthcare

  • Friday 8th to Saturday 16th September – mornings

Reigate Beaumont was built in the 1920s in a mock tudor style and will be open for guided tours.

Godalming – Charterhouse School

  • Sunday 17th September: Tours at 10am, 12:30pm and 2:30pm

Guided tours include the historic South African Cloister, Memorial Chapel, the Main Hall, the Library and Scholars’ Court.

Farnham – High Mill

  • Saturday 16th September: 11am, 2pm & 3:30pm
  • Sunday 17th September: 11am, 2pm & 3:30pm

Tour of High Mill, a watermill mentioned in the Domesday Book. This is a rare example of an old water-powered mill where the 18th-century wooden mill workings are still in situ and can be inspected. The buildings are fronted by the mill pond.

Dorking – Pippbrook House

  • Wednesday 13th September: 11am and 2pm

A tour of the Grade II* listed Pippbrook House, telling the story of its creation, it owners, its place in British architectural history and its adaptation to that of a public building .

Dorking – Wienerberger Factory Tour

  • Saturday 9th September: From 9:30 through to 2pm

Visitors will be able to look around the showroom, participate in a full factory tour, and will also get the opportunity to make your very own Keymer tile


Hemel Hempstead – Piccotts End: Pre-Reformation Wall paintings

  • Saturday 16th September: 11am, noon, 1pm, 2pm & 3pm
  • Sunday 17th September: 11am, noon, 1pm, 2pm & 3pm

This is a rare opportunity to see these unique early 16th century Wall paintings, recently featured on Celebrity Antiques Roadtrip. Come and learn about one man’s response to the religious turmoil in the area on the eve of Henry VIII’s Reformation

Berkhampstead – The Old Hall & Chapel, Berkhamsted School

  • Sunday 17th September: 10.30am & 2pm

Visitors will have the opportunity of seeing the original schoolhouse built in 1544 (Grade I listed), to learn something about the history of the school (founded in 1541) and see the beautiful little Victorian chapel.

Greater London

Kingston – Guildhall

  • Saturday 9 September: 10.15am, 11.30am, 1pm and 2:15pm
  • Saturday 16 September: 10.15am, 11.30am and 2:15pm

Take a tour of the Grade II listed Guildhall’s main rooms and the former magistrate’s court. See archive materials relating to the building of the Guildhall

Islington – Union Chapel

  • Saturday 9th September: All day

Union Chapel opens its doors with free guided tours, family workshops learning to build & play an organ, an organ recital on the world famous 1877 Willis organ powered by water hydraulics & film screenings.

Knightsbridge – Dora House: Guided Tours

  • Friday 8th September: 1pm
  • Monday 11th September: 1pm

Discover the hidden treasures and secret details of Dora House through a guided tour.

West Dulwich – British Vintage Wireless and Television Museum

  • Saturday 16th September: 10am, noon, 2pm, 4pm & 6pm

Join a tour to explore the collection of radio and television receivers and historic recordings through which we learn of the contributions the industry has made to UK society.


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