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See Southampton's Brickworks Museum for free! In celebration of Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days 2023: Free events in your area

Image: Brickworks Museum

Heritage Open Days (HODs) returns this September with thousands of free events and experiences. Brought to you by the National Trust, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and run by thousands of local organisations and volunteers, HODs brings people together to celebrate their heritage, community and history. 

The packed programme of more than 5000 events features everything from historic houses to factories, museums to music halls, formal gardens to graveyards, places, spaces and communities across the country who are once again hosting free events this autumn. 
The festival features thousands of events and activities across the country including a wide range of places that usually charge, free sites that put on extra special events for the festival and places that aren't usually open to the public. 

Check out some of the great Heritage Open Days events taking place across the country.

Heritage Open Days: North East region

Thorpe Light Railway 

Thorpe Light Railway, Whorlton, County Durham, DL12 9TW (nearest postcode) 

Join a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about the history of this miniature railway, and the work of the Friends to restore and operate it. Travelling by train, you will be able to get out at locations where the train doesn't normally stop, to find out more about the building of the railway, the local wildlife, and get a close-up look at the locomotives at the engine shed. 

 Event Times 

Saturday 16 September: 12:30pm t0 3:30pm, tours at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm 

 No booking required 

The Bowes Museum 

The Bowes Museum, Newgate, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NP 

With behind-the-scenes tours led by specialist staff to the painting stores, vaults, fashion and textile gallery cube and conservation studios there's the chance to discover some Museum secrets, and more about the making of A Collector's Story: A Private Collection of Vivienne Westwood. There will also be different guided Spotlight tours every half hour, inside and out. 

Saturday 16 September: 10am to 5pm 

 No booking required 

Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ Visits 

North East Theatre Organ Association, New Victoria Centre, High Street, Howden Le Wear, Crook, County Durham, DL15 8EZ 

See and hear the North East's only Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ – one of the UK's largest. Creativity will be 'unwrapped' as you explore the impressive workings of this truly amazing machine. It’s two large organ chambers contain over 1,300 organ pipes from a fraction of an inch to 16 feet long. Learn how the organ it was originally used 100 years ago. 

Saturday 16 September: 10am to 5pm 

 No booking required 

St Johns Cemetery, Elswick 

St Johns Cemetery, Elswick, Newcastle upon Tyne, Tyne & Wear, NE4 7RR 

Take a tour of Newcastle's largest cemetery, which opened in 1857, the burial place of many historic local characters and with fabulous views. The chapels will be opened especially for visitors. Several of Tyneside's leading industrialists are buried here, alongside victims of the Montagu Pit disaster. A haven a wildlife, keep an eye out for the parakeets. Tuesday 12 September: 1400-1500 

 Wednesday 13 September: 2pm to 3pm 

 No booking required 

Little Theatre Gateshead 

Little Theatre Gateshead , 1-4 Saltwell View, Gateshead, Tyne & Wear, NE8 4JS 

Tour the theatre building including backstage areas which are not usually open to the public and hear about the history of the only theatre built and opened during WWII. The archive charts the history of the Progressive Players from 1920 to the present day and some amazing recent finds will be on display. 

Saturday 9 September: 10.30am to 3.30pm

 No booking required 

Heritage Open Days: North West region

Carlisle Cathedral - Prior’s Tower 

The Priors Tower, The Abbey, Carlisle, Cumbria, CA3 8TZ 

A rare opportunity to see both of Carlisle Cathedral’s unique painted ceilings on the same day. The Tudor ceiling in the Prior's Tower is usually only open to view on special occasions. This year you can combine your visit with a special bell tower tour which will enable you to view the cathedral's blue starry ceiling up close. 

Saturday 16 September: 10am to 3pm 

 No booking required 


Travel back in time at The Old Station 

Longridge Heritage Centre, Station Buildings, Berry Lane, Longridge, Lancashire, PR3 3JP 

Journey into the past and discover the history and heritage of Longridge, a railway station built in 1872 This small town sits at the edge of the fell, or ‘long ridge’, after which it was named and this interactive pop-up museum will celebrate its people, places and industries. 

Saturday 9 September: 10am to 3pm 

 No booking required 


150 years of Fern Fern Fun at the Botanic Gardens 

The Fernery, Botanic Gardens, Churchtown, Southport, Merseyside, PR9 7NB 

Explore the magical Fernery in Southport's Botanic Gardens. Volunteers from the Botanic Gardens Community Association, dressed in Victorian costume, will explain the history of the Gardens since 1875, the current ongoing restoration and future plans. They will share stories of medieval monks, elephants and a rescue from the brink of becoming housing.  

Saturday 9 September: 10am to 4pm 

 No booking required 


Museum of Transport, Greater Manchester 

Museum of Transport, Boyle Street, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M8 8UW 

Visit this Grade II listed building - one of Manchester's first bus garages - which is now used as a transport museum. Explore the collection of over 80 vehicles, mainly buses, but including a fire engine, prototype Metrolink tram, lorries and ancillary vehicles. There’s a substantial collection of smaller items such as signage, uniforms, ticket machines and badges too 

Sat 9, Sun 10, Sat 16 and Sun 17 September: 10am to 4:30pm 

 No booking required 


Walton Hall Open Day 

Warrington Borough Council, Walton Hall Gardens, Walton Lea Road, Higher Walton, Warrington, Cheshire, WA4 6SN 

Take a rare chance to explore Walton Hall and visit an exhibition showing the history of both the hall and gardens. The Estate was bought by Edward Greenall around 1814 and Walton Hall is thought to have been built in the mid-1830's. It has a rich history but is now a thriving community facility. Volunteers will be on hand to answer any questions and activity packs will be available for children. 

Sunday 10 September: 11am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

Heritage Open Days: Yorkshire and Humberside region

How Stean Gorge 

How Stean Gorge, Lofthouse, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 5SF 

Get ready for a jam-packed day of exploring with maps provided to help you explore every nook and cranny of this natural hidden gem. See the gorge and water flow over unusual rock formations, explore the dark caves, and keep your eye out for wildlife and natural hidden gems. Orienteering courses will run for free, and wellies and torches are advised! 

Monday 11 and Tuesday 12 September: 9am to 5pm 

 No booking required 


Skidby Mill 

Skidby Milll, Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire, HU16 5TF 

Get your cameras ready for a picturesque day at the grade II listed Skidby Mill. Admire the famous tower windmill, enjoy a picnic in the beautiful surroundings with views of Humber Bridge, and explore the new children's play area nestled by the wildflower meadow – all for free! 

Event Times 

Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September: 10am to 4pm (closed 12:30pm to 1pm) 

 No booking required 


Try Your Hand at Ceramic Sculpture 

The Piazza, Corn Exchange, Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS1 7BR 

Get ready for a hands-on creative experience in the Piazza. See a Ceramicist at work from The Sculpture Gallery, then get stuck in and have a go yourself. 

Event Times 

Saturday 9 September: 1pm to 5pm 

Sunday 10 September: 1pm to 4pm

Saturday 16 September: 1pm to 5pm 

Sunday 17 September: 1pm to 4pm

 No booking required 


Creativity Unwrapped: Art Endures 

Community Hub, Wombwell Cemetery, Cemetery Road, Wombwell, South Yorkshire, S73 8HY 

Learn about Wombwell’s architects, artists, dancers, musicians, poets, and more! Uncover the lives of Joss Hudson, entomologist, poet, historian and writer; Willie Johnson the violinist of Ibbotson String Band; Colin Clarkson, a multi-scholarship local artist; and even more wonderful Wombwellers who gave the town its creative sparkle. Explore your own creativity by designing a stained-glass window. 

 Saturday 15 and Saturday 16 September: 10am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

Heritage Open Days: West Midlands region

Selly Manor Museum 

Maple Road, Bournville, Birmingham, West Midlands, B30 2AE 

Explore two of the oldest buildings in Birmingham - the Tudor Selly Manor and the medieval hall of Minworth Greaves, saved from demolition by chocolate manufacturer George Cadbury, and rebuilt in the heart of historic Bournville. The museum is full of hands-on experiences, including a chance to dress in replica Tudor costumes for both old and young alike, as well as games to play and a children's trail. 

Event Times 

Saturday 9 September: 10am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

Dudmaston Hall 

Dudmaston Hall, Quatt, Bridgnorth, Shropshire, WV15 6QN 

Take an unexpected chance to see works by Hepworth, Moore and Matisse set against the backdrop of a terraced garden overlooking the water. A much-loved home for over 875 years, the family rooms at Dudmaston are scattered with photos, while the galleries create a total contrast. Be sure to visit the gardens which provide amazing vistas and tranquillity. 

Event Times 

Sunday 10 September: 10:30am to 4:30pm 

 Monday 11 September: 10:30am to 4:30pm 

 Tuesday 12 September: 10:30am to 4:30pm 

 Wednesday 13 September: 10:30am to 4:30pm 

 Thursday 14 September: 10:30am to 4:30pm 

 No booking required 

Medieval Mayhem - Medieval encampment at Bromwich Hall 

Bromwich Hall Museum, Manor House, Hall Green Road, West Bromwich, West Midlands, B71 2EA 

Travel back to the Wars of the Roses at the end of the medieval period and see Bromwich Hall, once the medieval home of the Lords of the Manor of West Bromwich, come alive. Enjoy a fantastic medieval encampment with knights and ladies, weapons and combat demonstrations. Join in knight school, take part in a medieval dance, and meet the Lord and Lady. Young visitors can enjoy trails and craft activities. 

Event Times 

Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September: 11am-4pm 

 No booking required 

Tours of Ledbury Poetry House in the Barrett Browning Institute 

Barrett Browning Institute, The Homend, Ledbury, Herefordshire, HR8 2AA 

Take a tour of the building, including the top floor which is usually closed to the public, and hear about Ledbury Poetry’s plans for the Poetry House in this iconic building. Ledbury Poetry House is based in the Barrett Browning Institute, which was named after the poet Elizabeth Barrett Browning and has a long history as a reading room, library, meeting space and much more.  

Thursday 14, Friday 15 and Saturday 16 September: 1pm and 3pm  

 No booking required 

Heritage Open Days: East Midlands region

Calke Abbey 

National Trust, Calke Abbey, Ticknall, Derby, Derbyshire, DE73 7LE 

Discover the tales of the eccentric Harpur-Crewe family who amassed a vast collection of hidden treasures, on a visit to Calke Abbey. Grand rooms are crammed full of collections which contrasts with abandoned rooms and objects no longer used. The stables have overgrown courtyards and peeling paintwork and are great for exploring. Faded garden buildings such as the orangery and the rare auricula theatre, hint at the former fortunes and passions of the family. 

 Sunday 17 September: 10am to 5pm – the mansion opens 11am to 4pm (last entry at 4pm) 

 No booking required 

Newark Heritage Barge 

Riverside Park, Tolney Lane, Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG24 1BZ 

Hop aboard the Leicester Trader, the last Trent size cargo barge built to fit the old locks of the Trent Navigation Company. Learn the story of the barge’s history and what life was like on board before poring over archive material including models, tools, photograph collections and films. Younger visitors can see how the sails and cargoes were lifted and can climb into a imagine what it was like to spend time in there. 

Event Times 

Friday 8 September: 11am to 4pm 

 Saturday 9 September: 11am to 4pm 

 Sunday 10 September: 11am to 4pm 

 Friday 15 September: 11am to 4pm 

 Saturday 16 September: 11am to 4pm 

 Sunday 17 September: 11am to 4pm. 

 No booking required 

Stoneygate Tram Depot - A Journey Back in Time 

Leicester Transport Heritage Trust, 453 London Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE2 3JW 

Visit this rare example of a district tram car depot built in 1904 that is still very much in its original condition. Enjoy a free short ride on a classic double-deck bus; young visitors can take a turn behind the wheel of a static Kirby & West milk float, called Speedy as well as having a go at being a bus driver or conductor in a special pop-up bus. 

 Sunday 10 September: 10am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

Discover Heritage at the University of Leicester 

David Wilson Library Digital Culture Studio , University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester, Leicestershire, LE1 7RH 

Explore heritage at the University of Leicester. Visitors of all ages can explore Roman Leicester in the dig pit, have a go at craft activities, learn about Servandus and his stolen cloak and try writing their own curse tablet. There will also be an opportunity to see some of the treasures of the University’s collections, such as medieval manuscripts. 

Saturday 9 September: Drop-in activities throughout the day from 10am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

Gainsborough’s Heritage Skills Festival 

Gainsborough Market Place, Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, DN21 2EU 

Watch as Gainsborough's historic heart comes alive with demonstrations from traditional craftspeople carrying out age-old trades and bygone crafts from the past. Demonstrations include traditional blacksmiths, wood turning with a pole lathe, stained glass, sash window repair, lime mortar pointing, and historic wallpaper repair. 

Saturday 16 September: 9am to 3pm, demonstrations will run throughout the event 

 No booking required 

Heritage Open Days: East of England region

High Lighthouse 

High Lighthouse, West Street, Harwich, Essex, CO12 3DQ 

Climb the 100 steps to the top of the lighthouse and enjoy dramatic views across Harwich. The High Lighthouse was built in 1818 to line up with the Low Lighthouse, now the Maritime Museum. Together they operated as leading lights for shipping entering the estuary. The building is now being set up as a town museum.  

Saturday 16 September: 11am to 3pm 

 Sunday 17 September: 11am to 3pm 

 No booking required 

Cottenham Dissenters’ Cemetery 

Lambs Lane, Cottenham, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB24 8TB 

Wander through the tranquil surroundings of the cemetery to learn about its origins and history. Discover Victorian grave symbology and the meanings behind their designs and keep an eye out for the funeral bier. There will also be an opportunity to learn about some of the notable graves found there, including the Commonwealth War Graves Commission war graves. 

 Saturday 16 September: 11am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

BFI Film & Television Archive 

B F I National Archive, Kingshill Way, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 3TP 

Take a rare chance to see the specialist skills, technology and vaults preserving the film and TV heritage of the nation. Experience talks, demos, exhibits and mini-tours, all celebrating the National Collection and those integral to making it a world-class archive. 

Sunday 17 September: 10:30am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

St Benet’s Abbey - Fish & Chippings 

St Benet's Abbey, St Benet's Road, Ludham, Norfolk, NR29 5NU 

Join a tour to discover the hidden secrets of St Benet's Abbey and its iconic windmill. Guides will focus on the creative architecture and flint work used to make the impressive Gateway as well as unwrapping the importance of the fishponds seen at medieval monasteries. The site is home to some of the finest preserved ponds in the UK. 

Saturday 9 September: 2pm 

 Wednesday 13 September: 2pm

 Saturday 16 September: 2pm

 No booking required 

Bawdsey Radar Museum 

Bawdsey Radar Trust, Bawdsey, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 3BA 

Discover what amazing technology was developed at this top-secret location before the Second World War, and how we use it every day in the 21st century. Trace the scientific development of radar and its pivotal role in providing "the eyes of the few" and learn about the RAF fighter pilots who won the Battle of Britain. 

 Sunday 17 September: 11am until 4pm 

 No booking required 

Heritage Open Days: South East region

The Brickworks Museum 

The Brickworks Museum, Swanwick Lane, Swanwick, Southampton, Hampshire, SO31 7HB 

See the Brickworks Museum for free! In celebration of Heritage Open Days we throw open the doors to one and all. If you have always wondered what the museum was like, come and check us out without spending a penny. The Brickworks Museum features 125 years of brick making history under one roof. Experience the journey that clay takes on its way to becoming a brick as you walk through our authentic, engaging experience. With plenty to see and do for all ages, a visit to the Brickworks Museum evokes life at the industrial heart of Victorian Britain. 

Wednesday 13 and Thursday 14 September: 11am to 4pm 

 No booking required  

Experience Life in a First World War Trench 

Kent County Show Ground, Detling Hill, Detling, Maidstone, Kent, ME14 3JF 

Experience life in the trenches. Military and TV Historian Andy Robertshaw and his team have created a replica WW1 Front Line trench system complete with dugouts, machine gun positions, latrines and a first aid post. Take a tour through the trenches, meet 'Tommies' and German soldiers and learn about life in the trenches. 

 Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September: 10am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

Paralympic Arts and Crafts 

Aylesbury Library, Walton Street, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, HP20 1UU 

Get involved in the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Paralympic Movement with Buckinghamshire Archives and the National Paralympic Heritage Trust (NPHT) partnering to bring the celebrations to life. View rarely seen items from the NPHT Archives, see demonstrations of Archery and Boccia and unleash your creative side and design your own medal, Paralympic Games uniform, or even your own mascot! 

Saturday 16 September: 10am to 2pm 

 No booking required 

Garden Delights: A Royal Pavilion Garden Tour 

Royal Pavilion, Royal Pavilion Gardens, Brighton & Hove, East Sussex, BN1 1FN 

Immerse yourself in the artistic wonders of nature and architecture. This tour unveils the captivating blend of creativity, offering a unique exploration of the Royal Pavilion's garden. Join guide Naomi Daw on a journey through time, which considers the history and heritage of a garden fit for a King! 

Tuesday 12 September: 10am to 11am 

 No booking required 

Greenwich Park 

Royal Parks, Greenwich Park, London, Greater London, SE10 8QY 

Heritage Open Days comes to Greenwich Park for the first time this year! Join members of the Royal Parks team to explore the park's fascinating history through free expert-led walks and activities. The historic gates to the Queen’s Orchard will be opened revealing a working allotment and a variety of heritage fruit trees, dating back to the 1500's. Explore what lies beneath the park on two walking tours with a Community Archaeologist. The walks will leave from the Queen's Orchard at 11:30am and 1:30pm and each walk will last for one hour. Places are first come first served. 

Saturday 16 September: 11am to 3pm 

 No booking required 

Heritage Open Days: South West region

Horton Court 

Horton Court, Horton, Bristol, Bristol, BS37 6QR 

Explore over 1,000 years of history at Horton Court, the oldest inhabited roofed structure the National Trust cares for. Discover the story of the site from the Norman Conquest to the modern day. A place where church, farming and country living have been entwined for centuries. Used as a filming location for both Wolf Hall and Poldark, see if you can find out which parts of the building made it onto TV. 

Saturday 9, Sunday 10, Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September: 10am to 4pm 

 No booking required 

Cowbridge Sawmill 

Hillview, Cowbridge, Timberscombe, Minehead, Somerset, TA24 7TD 

Visit this lovingly restored heritage sawmill with a working water wheel, sawmill mill and forge not usually open to the public. Explore its 700 year history with a rural crafts display, original vintage machinery and a blacksmith working in the forge.  

Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 September: 11am to 4:30pm

 No booking required 

Newark Park 

Newark Park House, Ozleworth, Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire, GL12 7PZ 

Escape modern life and get lost in the beauty of this unspoilt corner of Gloucestershire offering stunning views in every direction. With garden strolls and woodland walks, activities and trails for families, and a 16th century house to admire there’s plenty to do this September – and keep an eye out for the resident peacocks!  

Saturday 9 September: Site 10am to 5pm. House is open 11am to 4pm (last entry 3:45pm) 

 No booking required 

Archaeology In The Park 

GWR Park, Faringdon Road, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN1 5ED 

Become an archaeologist for the day and work alongside professional archaeologists to help uncover the WWII secrets of the GWR Park. Learn about all things archaeology and see what you can discover as part of a real excavation, there's a role for everyone at this dig! 

Friday 8 September: 10am to 4pm 

Saturday 9 September: 10am to 4pm 

Sunday 10 September: 10am to 3pm 

 No booking required  

White Mill 

White Mill, Sturminster Marshall, Wimborne, Dorset, BH21 4BX 

A beautiful eighteenth-century corn mill in a peaceful riverside setting, White Mill is the perfect place to enjoy a quiet visit. Relax and enjoy the beautiful views from the bank of the River Stour in the secluded mill grounds and orchard before joining a guided tour of the historic mill building to discover the workings and hear the stories from its past. 

Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 September: Open 12pm - 5pm, regular tours available 

 No booking required