This year’s Heritage Open Days has arrived. This national, annual event offers visitors a rare opportunity to delve into Norfolk’s fascinating and sometimes hidden heritage for free. The festival kicks off on Thursday 10th September and will run through until Sunday 13th September. With events to suit everyone, this great celebration of our county’s fantastic heritage is not to be missed.
In Norwich and Norfolk alone there are more than 240 free events taking place across Norwich, Thetford, Breckland, South Norfolk, Broadland, Great Yarmouth, North Norfolk and further afield. Featuring open buildings, guided tours and walks, literary events, exhibitions and performances, there’s plenty to see and do across the long heritage weekend. And as well as the ever-popular pre-book events, there are lots of drop-in activities and open buildings – see how many you can fit in!
Highlights from the programme of drop-in events include:
- The Guildhall, Thetford: There has been a guildhall on the site since the 14th century. The current building was used as courtrooms until the second half of the 20th century. There will be two performances of ‘The Capable Convict Henry Kable’, a play by the Fine Time Theatre Company in the Small Court; tickets are available on a first come first served basis. In the Large Court there will be Georgian-themed costumed characters and an opportunity to handle historical objects, courtesy of the Ancient House Museum. Upstairs is the Jack Pilling Art Gallery, providing exhibition space to artists and a coffee shop.
- North Walsham: Making History! at Arts North Norfolk: Take a peek at North Walsham’s heritage by experiencing its rich history through everyday objects, photographs and stories. There is an historical treasure trail for kids and a chance to guess the mystery objects! See photographs and objects from a bygone era, view the online community photographic archive or soak someone in the medieval stocks! Part of the North Walsham cluster of events over the heritage weekend.
- Harleston – Tea and Memories, South Norfolk: Come along and share your memories and memorabilia from days gone by. Bring old photos, letters, granny’s recipe book or grandad’s medals and share memories of life in the Waveney Valley. Hear about the Great War project being run by Waveney Archaeology Group, ‘The 8th in the East’, and how you can get involved. Tea and cakes provided! Part of the Harleston cluster of events taking place over the heritage weekend.
- Wherry Hathor at Pull’s Ferry, Norwich. Rare visit to Norwich by this unique pleasure wherry, built in 1905 for the Colman sisters. It is an iconic symbol of the Edwardian discovery of the Broads as a holiday destination. Newly re-launched, her magnificent and colourful Egyptian-themed interiors have been lovingly restored to their original grandeur by the Wherry Yacht Charter Charitable Trust, in whose care she now rests.
- Happisburgh Lighthouse, North Norfolk. Erected in 1791, Happisburgh Lighthouse is the only independently operated working lighthouse in the UK. Saved from closure by the local community in 1988, it is now managed by the Happisburgh Lighthouse Trust. Funding for operational and maintenance costs is raised entirely by voluntary effort. Visitors can climb the tower (112 steps) as part of a guided tour.
- Hopton Ruined Church (Old St Margaret’s Church), Hopton-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth: Another chance to see the conservation work being undertaken on this early medieval Grade II listed ruin. Visitors of all ages will also have the opportunity to take part in a number of activities including: a flintknapping demonstration with John Lord on Friday, nature workshop with Emma Purnell on Saturday, and an archaeology activity day with Giles Emery on Sunday.
- Priory Gardens: Past Times Fayre, Great Yarmouth. A pop-up Gorleston Community Heritage Centre. Interest groups and schools will be exhibiting their local heritage projects within the lovely setting of Priory Gardens. There will be a marquee housing a vintage tearoom and various activities will be taking place. Part of the Friends of Priory Gardens public consultation on Gorleston community heritage and the proposal for a dedicated heritage hub in the town.
- Blickling Estate Manor House, Broadland: This distinctive farmhouse is part of the Blickling Estate and has been let for many years. Now empty, visitors will have the chance to look around this 16th-century house for the first time. It has been left as it was found and one of the uses proposed is as a holiday let with a difference.
Late additions to the drop-in programme, available to view only on the website, include:
- St Barnabus Church, Norwich: An early 20th century church with six stained glass windows and a war memorial, listing 200 servicemen of the First & Second World Wars.
- Princes Street Reformed Church, Norwich: The church building has been refurbished to provide a flexible space within the sanctuary. A glazed screen is incorporated in the design allowing a street view of the sanctuary. The Gallery has both straight and curved pews with bold decorative ironwork round the balcony. There is colourful, spectacular plasterwork on the ceiling.
Any remaining tickets for pre-book events will be available to book in person only from HEART at The Guildhall, Norwich (10am-4pm) from 1st September and over the course of Heritage Open Days.