Heritage Open Days, the (two) weekends of the year when lots of buildings open their doors to the public has published its initial list of properties.

It’s the same as London Open House Weekend, except that most of it happens outside London. Although normally just one weekend, this year it’s over two — 6th-9th & 13th-16th September.

A recommendation is to find a few things below that catch the eye, then do a search on Heritage Open Days website for other buildings that are open nearby and make a day-trip of it.

My pick of the things happening reasonably close to London…

Shoreham Lifeboat Station Tour

Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex, BN43 6RN

The new Lifeboat Station consists of a large boat hall, crew training room / class room, proper drying facilities for wet crew kit, changing facilities and a viewing platform, all of which will be open to the public during the Brighton Heritage Open days

Booking required

War Memorial Cenotaph Chamber of Silence

Coventry, West Midlands, CV3 6PT

The Friends of War Memorial park are giving visitors a chance to see inside the 90 foot Cenotaph at the Chamber of Silence which is only normally open for Remembrance Sunday.

Severn Trent Headquarters

Coventry, West Midlands, CV1 2LZ

A rare chance to take a look inside the hub of the company responsible for the water and waste water service in the Midlands – the company that chose Coventry as its base in 2010.

Booking required

Reigate Fort Open Day

Reigate, Surrey, RH2 0HX

Take a look at the interior of the fort buildings at Reigate Fort. Not normally open to the public, the toolstore, shifting lobby and magazine will be open today.

St John’s School

Leatherhead, Surrey, KT22 8SP

See displays on the history and heritage of St John’s in the Old Chapel and discover how the School came to be established in Leatherhead over 140 years ago with a guided tour of the School grounds

Kingston medieval bridge and Undercroft

Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT1 1TE

Down by the riverside at Kingston upon Thames were found the remains of Kingston’s medieval bridge and the undercroft of an important medieval building, both our housed underneath the John Lewis store.

Ian has Visited

Lovelace Mausoleum

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.

Abbot’s Hospital, Guildford

Guildford, Surrey, GU1 3AJ

Jacobean Alms-house, still used for its original purpose. Founded in 1619 by George Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury and a translator of the King James Bible, Abbot’s Hospital currently has 25 residents. Access to courtyard and part of interior.

Ian has Visited

Royal Automobile Club

Epsom, Surrey, KT18 7EW

Visit Woodcote Park, home to the world famous Royal Automobile Club where you will see the recently renovated Motor House – winner of the 2017 Surrey Heritage Awards – before enjoying a guided tour of some of the historic clubhouse and grounds.

Booking required

Royal Holloway University of London

Egham, Surrey, TW20 0EX

Royal Holloway, University of London, welcomes the public to explore its spectacular grade 1 listed Founder’s Building, Picture Gallery, Chapel, Archives and extensive grounds.

Keymer Handmade Clay Roof Tiles & Wienerberger Factory Tour

Dorking, Surrey, RH5 5QH

Visitors will be able to look around our beautiful showroom, and participate in a full factory tour. We will also have on display dinosaur bones that were found in our on site quarry recently

Booking required

Former Atomic Weapons Bunker Tours

Thetford, Suffolk, IP24 2PH

Tour a Scheduled Monument to the Cold War, where the Atom bombs Blue Danube and Red Beard were maintained including a voluntary climb up a 25ft watchtower.

Booking required

The Norman Tower, Cathedral Church of St James & St Edmund

Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP33 1LS

A rare opportunity to see the Norman Tower from a different point of view.

Booking required


Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 1JF

A tour around the Jarrold Department store looking at the history of the building and visiting areas not usually seen by our customers. Jarrolds opened in 1823 and has seen many changes and additions over the years.

Booking required

Eaton Park Rooftop tours

Norwich, Norfolk, NR4 7AZ

Friends of Eaton Park are organising this event which includes a briefing on the history and develoment of the park and the chance to take in some fantastic views from the roof top of one of the famous Pavillions in the centre of the park, by the bandstand.

Carrow Abbey

Norwich, Norfolk, NR1 2DD

A rare chance to visit the 16th-century rooms and the 12th-century ruins of one of Norwich’s least known monastic sites, now the Abbey Conference Centre.

Glenfield Railway Tunnel 1832

Leicester, Leicestershire, LE3 8BQ

Walk and talk along original L&SR Trackbed & be taken 400 yards into the original mile long railway tunnel.

Booking required

Nuclear Bunker, Victory Wood

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. It was opened in 1966 and decommissioned and emptied in 1976 when the imminent threat of nuclear attack had passed.

Masonic Hall

Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN4 9UY

The premises will be open and access will be available to the Temple which is normally not open to non-members. Freemasons will be on hand to explain the design of the Temple and answer any questions on Freemasonry and its 300 year old history.

The Opera House

Tunbridge Wells, Kent, TN1 1RT

A guided tour of parts of a Grade II listed theatre not normally open to the public, highlighting the interior decor and external features of the building, the history of theatre in Tunbridge Wells and various productions and films at the Opera House

Booking required

St Edward’s Presbytery

Ramsgate, Kent, CT11 9NY

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.

The Archbishop’s Palace

Maidstone, Kent, ME15 6YE

A chance to view most of the rooms within the Archbishops Palace, a beautiful 12th Century Ragstone palace in the heart of Maidstone, currently a popular venue for weddings and citizenship ceremonies.

Booking required

Western Heights North Entrance Road Tunnel

Dover, Kent, CT17

Built in the 1860s this road tunnel provided access to the Western Heights military defences. Visitors will be guided through the tunnel.

Booking required

Grand Shaft Staircase

Dover, Kent, CT17 9BZ

Triple spiral staircase built 1803-1809 connecting the former Grand Shaft barracks on the cliff top with Snargate Street at sea level to provide easy, swift access for troops.

The Bastion Tower

Canterbury, Kent, CT1 2BZ

A rare opportunity to visit one of the surviving converted bastion towers in the city wall, now the offices of an architect

Booking required

Fordwich Town Hall

Canterbury, Kent, CT2 0DB

Built in 1544 the Town Hall is the oldest and smallest in the country. It has a Jail and an upstairs Courtroom where criminal cases were tried. Visitors can see ancient artefacts and view the 10 minute film in the Undercroft.

St Albans Clock Tower

St. Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 5DL

Climb the 93 steps to the top of the only medieval town belfry in England and enjoy the magnificent views of the Cathedral. Visitors can also admire the working Victorian clock and the medieval bell, Gabriel.

St Leonard’s Church, Bengeo

Hertford, Hertfordshire, SG14 3JW

‘The rare example of a virtually intact Norman village church; (Prof Sir Nikolaus Pevsner). The church will be open to visitors, with stewards to show them around and/or answer questions. The interior of the church is decorated with medieval wall paintings, and there are samples of medieval floor tiles.

Piccotts End Medieval Cottage

Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP1 3AU

An early sixteenth century Tudor Hall House with extremely rare and important wall paintings – not usually open to the public.

Booking required

Winchester Book Bindery

Winchester, Hampshire, SO23 9LZ

Book a visit to Winchester’s very own bindery & enjoy a short talk by one of the binders giving a brief history of the bindery and the nature of the work undertaken. The visitors will be given an opportunity to see some of the books & ask questions.

Booking required

Behind the Scenes Tour: The Mary Rose Collection

Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 3LX

An exclusive behind the scenes tour of the Mary Rose Collection, going in depth on the work involved in caring for the unique and invaluable items with key members of our Conservation & Collections Teams.

Booking required

WW2 Bunker

Gosport, Hampshire, PO12 2JU

Enjoy a rare opportunity to investigate inside the only surviving WW2 Air Raid Precaution Bunker and Civil Defence Centre in Hampshire.

Booking required

Fort Blockhouse and the Submarine Escape Training Tank

Gosport, Hampshire, PO12 2AS

Your Guide will give you a brief history of the site from Roman times to present day. You’ll also tour the former submarine base and visit the Submarine Escape Training Tank (SETT) where all submariners had to learn to escape through 100 feet of water.

Booking required

HMS Collingwood Heritage Collection

Fareham, Hampshire, PO14 1AS

A rare opportunity to take a guided tour of the HMS Collingwood Heritage Collection. The Collection consists, mainly, of Royal Navy Wireless and Radar equipment from the 1890s to the 1980s.

Booking required

Loughton Cemetery Chapel

Loughton, Essex, IG10 1PD

This Grade II listed chapel, built in the 1890s, is not usually open to the public so this is an opportunity to come and see inside this historic building.

Radar Tower Beacon Hill Fort

Harwich, Essex, CO12 3NP

One of the earliest developments of radar in WWII – used to detect German ‘E’ boats in the Harwich Harbour approaches. Built in 1941 and manned by the Royal Navy, it had a range of 15 miles.

Marriage’s Flour Mill Tours

Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1PN

A guided tour around our site including the Victorian mill building with more recent additions to the flour and feed mill. Entrance by Guided Tour Only.

Booking required

Cable Hut

Seaford, East Sussex, BN25 4AR

A 1900 relay station for communications from London to France. War damaged and restored as a beach hut. It is one of the few remaining cable stations that once lined the coast.

Lewes Prison

Lewes, East Sussex, BN7 1EA

A chance to see inside this imposing Victorian building of 1853 with fine brick and flint walls.

Booking required

Roedean: Then and Now – School Tour

Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, BN2 5RQ

Come and walk the corridors of one of the first girls’ boarding schools in the country.

Booking required

Embassy Court

Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, BN1 2PX

Embassy Court was designed by the Canadian architect Wells Coates and completed in 1936. The following year, the Museum of Modern Art in New York featured the building in its seminal exhibition ‘Modern Architecture in England’,

Booking required

Clayton Tunnel North Portal

Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, BN6 9PQ

What lies behind the commanding battlements of the Clayton tunnel North Portal? Visitors will be shown around the grounds and have the chance to go into the cottage, view some memorabilia and experience the trains.

Booking required

Wisbech Corn Exchange

Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, PE13 1JR

Open for the first time in 28 years, step back in time at Wisbech Corn Exchange and relive where for decades locals enjoyed dancing, rollerskating, billiards and bingo. Tour includes special appearances by The Rolling Stones and Miss Wisbech 1963.

Booking required

Thomas Deacon Academy

Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE1 2UW

Designed by the world renowned architect, Norman Foster, in 2007 this was the largest single-site academy in the UK when it was built. Tours of the building and grounds run on an ad hoc basis during the day.

Waste Recovery Park Open Day

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK12 5QF

Milton Keynes Waste Recovery Park is a new facility which deals with Milton Keynes’ black sack waste in a sustainable way. You will have a presentation regarding the technologies that we have on site and get to see the plant working.

Booking required

Milton Keynes Magistrates’ Court

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK9 2AJ

You will see the Magistrates’ Court on a working day escorted by two magistrates. You will have an opportunity to learn about how we sentence and about the sentencing powers magistrates have at their disposal.

Booking required

Bow Brickhill Church and Tower Open Day

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK17 9LQ

The church and tower will be open for stunning views over the city and surrounding countryside. Teas and cakes on sale.

All Saints’ Church, Loughton, 800th Anniversary

Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, MK5 8AS

All Saints’ Church is celebrating 800 years since the first Rector was appointed, early in the reign of Henry III. In addition, there’s the chance to find out more about our newly restored bells.

Booking required

The Gothic Temple

Buckingham, Buckinghamshire, MK18 5DF

A rare chance to see inside the Gothic Temple, a splendid folly built in 1741 by architect James Gibbs. It was one of Lord Cobham’s last additions to his famous landscape at Stowe and dedicated by him ‘To the Liberties of our Ancestors.’

The Tower Block County Hall

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 1UA

Tour the County Hall, which opened in 1966. The building was designed by Architect Fred Pooley and constructed in a typical 1060s brutalist style that has gained accolades from architects around the country.

Booking required

Historic Tour of Judges Lodgings

Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 1UA

Come and explore the history of the Judges Lodgings and the County’s pictures on these special tours.

Booking required

Reading Synagogue

Reading, Berkshire, RG1 7YB

A traditional synagogue in a Moorish style opened on 31st October 1900 and still in regular use. Visitors will be able to view a traditional synagogue which has recently undergone full restoration of the roof and cupola.

Newbury Town Hall Open Day

Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5AA

View the Council Chamber, the Civic staircase and the Town Hall portraits. Search the Roll of Honour of Mayors back to 1596. To mark the 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote,there will be a special focus on our Lady Mayors.

All Saints’ Church, Ascot Heath

Ascot, Berkshire, SL5 8DQ

This beautiful church was designed by T H Rushforth and built in 1864 of red brick and Portland stone. It is a fine example of Victorian church architecture.

St Stephens Church Redditch

Redditch, Worcestershire, B97 4DY

Come and explore the tallest church tower in Redditch. St Stephen’s church Redditch is opening up our tower giving you the opportunity to climb the tower and see the church bells.

Booking required


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