The destination for history

Heritage Open Days


If you have ever wanted to take a peek inside some of the country’s most magnificent and fascinating buildings, then Heritage Open Days 2018 is your chance! Every year in September museums, gardens, theatres and attractions throughout England open their doors to the public for Heritage Open Days, the country’s biggest free festival of history and culture.

For four days, thousands of events across the country invite you in to explore hidden places, try out new experiences and discover local treasures of every age, style and function – a once-a-year opportunity to discover hidden architectural treasures and enjoy a wide range of events and activities which bring to life local history and culture. This year’s open days take place between Thursday 6 and Sunday 9 and Thursday 13 and Sunday 16 September 2018 when some 40,000 volunteers will be promoting over 5,000 historic buildings in a cavalcade of free walks, talks, tours, open houses, exhibitions, performances and demonstrations. This year, in recognition of the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 which granted some women the vote, the theme is ‘Extraordinary Women’, focusing on both well-known and less celebrated women. 

Following on from the success of last year’s Unsung Stories project, which focused on personal histories from the LGBTQ community, Heritage Open Days is launching a second Unsung Stories project - put her forward - a ground-breaking artistic collaboration which will see the creation of up to 25 new 3-D modelled figurines of present day ‘Extraordinary Women’. Interactive arts group non zero one will source nominations for community heroines in towns and cities, as well as online; selected candidates will then be permanently commemorated with statues unveiled over the HODs weekend. 

Throughout the festival a range of Landmark Trust sites will be free to access, as well as a number of National Trust properties.

To celebrate Heritage Open Days 2018 here are our picks, both local and national, highlighting just some of the many interesting and diverse places involved. 

The City of Gloucester Heritage Open Days

Uncover the story of Britain’s waterways and the history behind local waterways and the Gloucester Docks at The National Waterways Museum Gloucester, from Thursday 13 September to Sunday 16 September between 10.30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (free entry on Saturday 15 and Sunday 16 September). The Museum has special displays and activities for children so that they can learn about waterways heritage, as well as a stationary steam engine manufactured by the well-known local engineering company Fielding and Platt. A guided tour of the museum, which includes object handing and exhibit explanations is available, as are boat trips and guided walking tours around the docks (pre-booking required).

A chance to explore Blackfriars Priory, Britain’s most complete Dominican Priory, owned by English Heritage and managed by Gloucester City. Most of the 13th century church remains, including a rare scissor-braced roof. Hosting the Blackfriars Talks as part of Gloucester History Festival. Guided tours of the priory are available which last about an hour. Thursday 13 September to Saturday 15 September.

Jet Age museum exists to promote and preserve the history of Gloucestershire's contribution to world aviation from the early days of flight. Britain’s first jet aircraft, the Gloster E28/39, first left the ground at nearby Brockworth airfield in 1941. The Jet Age Museum houses a replica of the plane together with original Gloster-built planes such as the Javelin and Meteor, a replica of the 1920s Gloster Gamecock biplane fighter and a 1930s Gloster Gladiator undergoing restoration. The museum’s Vulcan bomber and Trident airliner cockpits will be open subject to availability. Open Thursday 13 to Sunday 16 September, with a series of short talks on aviation history subjects delivered by museum volunteers and guest speakers on Thursday 13 and Friday 14. The museum will also be hosting a special exhibition entitled: ‘Battle of Britain. To Commemorate the Freedom’. The exhibition features the Polish, Czechoslovac and British brotherhood in arms during the Battle of Britain in 1940.

Formerly the Benedictine Abbey of St Peter, founded in the 11th century, Gloucester Cathedral features Norman pillars in the nave, the elaborate tomb of Edward II, exquisite 14th century fan vaulting, the 15th century tower and the magnificent Great East Window. It is free to visit the Cathedral and on Heritage Open Days they are delighted to offer additional free activities to visitors. Activities and events taking place include Parliament Rooms visits, Ask the Archivist and calligraphy demonstrations, a special interest talk about royal connections at the Cathedral and guided crypt and tower talks. Pre-booking required for some events. 

In 1903 Beatrix Potter published one of her most loved tales, The Tailor of Gloucester, inspired by a visit she made to the city. See the building she based her story on and meet the Tailor, Simpkin the cat and a host of other characters. In the kitchen the Peter Rabbit DVD is playing, where you can sit and watch at your leisure. Thursday 13 September to Saturday 15 September. 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. A guided walk around the places of Gloucester connected with Beatrix Potter is available on Thursday 13 and Sunday 16 September at 2:30 p.m. and on Saturday 15 September at 11:00 a.m.


National highlights

Once the village school, the Hall houses an unique collection of Pre-Raphaelite murals and tells the fascinating story of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford, the artist who created them. 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Louisa, Marchioness of Waterford who, after the tragic death of her husband in 1859, came to live in Ford where she remained for the rest of her life. A talented artist and a great benefactress, Louisa transformed the village and the lives of the people who lived on the Ford Estate. Her legacy lives on, not least in the amazing life-size murals which can be seen in the Lady Waterford Hall, a building which she commissioned as the village school in 1860. Here visitors can also view smaller sketches and paintings by Lady Waterford and discover more about this extraordinary woman's life and works. There is also a 'Kids Zone' with activities including dressing up, Victorian school games and quizzes.

The changing fortunes of grand country house Beningbrough Hall and gardens are told through stories of prosperity, loss and re-invention. From a wealthy teenager who created this Italian palace in Yorkshire to the Victorian family who liked tobogganing down the elegant cantilevered staircase. ‘Making her mark: celebrating creative women’ is a new exhibition in partnership with the National Portrait Gallery showcasing diverse portraits of influential women who have made an outstanding contribution to art and culture, from Judi Dench to Amy Winehouse and J.K. Rowling. Outdoors, see the walled garden, stroll among luxurious borders and sit under the Pergola, the latest design from RHS Chelsea Gold Winner Andy Sturgeon. As the autumn harvest is starting, there will be apples and pears in abundance from over 50 fruit trees. Browse in the stables shop or treat yourself in the restaurant to the latest seasonal dishes. There is also a wilderness play area and the top floor of the hall has interactive hands-on galleries, perfect for families.

The fabulous Alla Horska Ukranian Folk Museum is full of beautiful and unique objects donated and created by extraordinary Ukrainian women. This year the Association of Ukrainian Women in Great Britain is celebrating its 70th birthday and 65 years of the Manchester Branch. Hundreds of extraordinary women have joined branches of the Association across the UK since 1948, and made a huge contribution to diaspora life. The museum was set up in the 1950s and still continues to collect, document and explore the cultural and artistic life of Ukrainians in Great Britain. Come and enjoy our incredible collection of ceramics, embroideries, wood carvings, pysanky (Easter eggs) and much more! Open Sunday 16 September 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. 

A Suffragette reenactment of ‘The Trial of Emmeline Pankhurst’ will be taking place at Victorian arts and crafts manor house Wightwick Manor on Saturday 15 September at 11:30 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Based on the words of Emmeline Pankhurst in her autobiography ‘Suffragette My Own Story’, this live, outdoor performance is written by Sam Kick and stars the house’s wonderful volunteers. Inside the Manor is the Suffragist view. Outside there will be Suffragette marches to hear Emmeline Pankhurst on trial on the South Terrace here at Wightwick Manor. Come along and decide who you would have supported - Millicent Fawcett and the Suffragists or Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes and join in by making your own rosette.

Discover some of the extraordinary women who have shaped milling and helped preserve our heritage. Get a sneak peek of a beautiful panelled room in the historic Watlington House and meet some of the team who will be on hand at this exhibition. Come and discover some of the treasures and personal stories cared for by the Mills Archive Trust, a charity that preserves the world's milling images and documents and makes them freely available to the public. Watlington House is reputedly the oldest residential building in Reading. Visit this exhibition and gain access to a stunning panelled room on the first floor of Watlington House, dating from 1688. It features handmade wooden furniture crafted by a local craftsman and enjoys a view of the garden. While visiting, take the opportunity to explore the rest of Watlington House, its rooms and the tranquil landscaped garden, which is not usually open to the public.

Dorich House was the home of Dora Gordine and her husband the Hon Richard Hare, a scholar of Russian art and literature. Now Grade II listed, the building was completed in 1936 to Gordine’s design, and is an exceptional example of a modern studio house created by and for a female artist. Following Gordine’s death in 1991 the house was acquired and renovated by Kingston University and is now open to the public as a fully accredited museum. In the spirit of Gordine’s exemplary life and career, the Museum operates as an international centre to promote and support women creative practitioners. The Museum holds the world’s largest collection of Gordine’s work, which spans her artistic career. Alongside work completed at Dorich House from the mid-1930s are examples of her early paintings, drawings and sculptures, produced in Paris and south-east Asia from the late 1920s. Also on permanent display is an important collection of Russian art and artefacts, acquired by Gordine and Hare during their marriage. Open Thursday 13, Friday 14 and Saturday 15 September 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tours available Friday and Saturday at 11:30 a.m.

Cumberland Lodge will be opening its doors for the public to explore the building on guided tours and to hear about the history behind the historic house in Windsor Great Park and the extraordinary women who have resided there. Guided Tours of Cumberland Lodge will be taking place across the morning and afternoon on Saturday 15 September and 
Sunday 16 September between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Lunchtime talks will include: Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough; Princess Marie Louise; Princess Helena and Cumberland Lodge founder, Amy Buller. Pre-booking required. 

Kingston Lacy is a lavish house filled with treasures, a beautiful garden and extensive countryside estate. The house is brimming with historic collections whilst the garden spans a Japanese Garden, Kitchen Garden and woodland. A dazzling house, inspired by the palaces of Italy. Stunning paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Titian and Brueghel make it an art lover's dream whilst the Egyptian Room hosts the largest private collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the UK. This year we will also be telling the stories of four women who have been instrumental in shaping Kingston Lacy - bringing together fine art, decorative objects and voices from the Bankes Archive, Beyond the Portrait delves into the history from Civil War to the early twentieth century. Entry to the house on Friday 14 September is by free timed entry ticket, which must be pre-booked via or 0344 249 1895.

For more information about Heritage Open Days and to find events in your area, please visit

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