Heritage Open Days in England

Cheval Hyde Park Gate is close to many historical sites, including the iconic Westminster Abbey.

From the 12th to the 15th September 2013, Europe will have the European Heritage Days.

But what is it? Heritage Open Days or European Heritage Days (EHD) is an annual programme that offers opportunities to visit buildings, monuments and sites, many of which are not normally accessible to the public. It aims to widen access and foster care for architectural and environmental heritage. These events are also known as Doors Open Days and Open Doors Days.

A little history? The event began in France in 1984, with La Journée Portes Ouvertes, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture. In 1985, in Granada, at the 2nd European Conference of Ministers responsible for Architectural Heritage, the French Minister of Culture proposed that the project be internationalised under the Council of Europe. The Netherlands held their first Open Monumentendag in 1987. Sweden and the Republic of Ireland joined in 1989, and Belgium and Scotland in 1990.

EHD in London and Great Britain: Unfortunately, London is almost completely excluded from the event, but on the south-east of England, more then 500 venues are open to visit. Ian from the Ian Visits Blog, have selected a few venues worth visiting and that don't require booking:

- Behind the Scenes at Chichester Cathedral - Areas of the Cathedral normally closed to the public will be open to visitors. The Song School located high up in the Cathedral’s triforium and reached by a winding spiral staircase is where the Cathedral choir practice twice daily.

- Abbot’s Hospital, Guildford -Amazing old hospital and alms houses — guided tours into most of the main rooms, but beware of long queues. I visited it last year.

- Royal Holloway, University of London, Egham - Visit the spectacular Grade I listed Founder’s Building, Picture Gallery, Chapel and extensive grounds.

- Air Raid Shelter and Static Engine Collection, Dorking - Visit and discuss home-built air raid shelter made of concrete in 1940. Also a collection of internal combustion engines from 1899 to 1950 and machine tools of similar age

- Chatley Heath Semaphore Tower, Cobham - The tower was once part of a chain which was used to pass messages between the Admiralty in Whitehall and the Royal Naval Dockyard in Portsmouth. It was built in 1822 and is now the only restored surviving tower in a line of signalling stations that stretched from London to Portsmouth. (note: is a 20 minute walk from car park to the tower.)

- The Archbishops’ Palace, Maidstone - An exclusive opportunity to view this landmark building. This magnificent medieval Ragstone Palace in its riverside setting provided a resting place for the Archbishops of Canterbury on their way to London. Now the Kent Register Office.

- Grand Shaft Staircase, Dover - Annual opening of this exceptional triple spiral staircase built 1803-1809 connecting the Grand Shaft barracks on the cliff top with Snargate Street at sea level.

- Romsey Signal Box, Hampshire - Historic signal box c.1865, working museum with levers and bells, open to the public. Added because it is about to close for 2 years.

- The Gothic Temple, Milton Keynes - The Gothic Temple is a splendid historic folly built in the gardens at Stowe in 1741. Inside the rooms are all circular with the main vault of the central space painted with heraldry and to be on the first floor gallery is an important architectural experience (have to pay to get into the park first.)

You can have all the information needed in the Heritage Open Days website

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