Rare opportunity to explore Northampton's historical buildings - all for free
More than 30 historic buildings, churches and venues across Northampton and beyond will be open to the public for free from Friday to Sunday (September 13 to 15).
Heritage Open Days is a once-a-year opportunity to explore some of the town’s unique historic buildings, many of which are usually restricted or charge for entry.
The volunteer-run event is co-ordinated by Northampton Borough Council and cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, Councillor Tim Hadland, is encouraging people to make the most of it.
“The event is a great opportunity to learn more about the wonderful history and architecture we have in and around our town, and knowledgeable volunteers will be on hand at each venue to bring your visit to life," he said.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s 78 Derngate, the Elizabethan Hazelrigg House, the ancient St Peter’s Church and the Victorian Gothic Guildhall are among the buildings opening their doors to the public as part of the event, which is England's largest festival of history and culture.
The programme also features guided walks of the area which was once home to Northampton Castle, the Battle of Northampton site and the streets and buildings where the town’s Suffragettes met to protest.
Other highlights include guided tours of the grade II*-listed Northampton and County Club and its medieval vaulted cellars, a visit to the rare 12th century Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a 1940’s themed open day at the restored engine shed at the University of Northampton, complete with displays from the Home Guard.
Plenty of churches and venues beyond the town centre will also open across the three days, including St John the Baptist in Kingsthorpe and St Mary the Blessed Virgin in Hardingston - , plus the grade I-listed Upton Hall. Meanwhile, an army of vikings will be fighting at the Iron Age hill fort in Hunsbury Hill Country Park.
Visitors can call into the Jeyes Museum in Earls Barton to learn about the Victorian brothers who invented Jeyes Fluid, or stop by the Royal Ordnance Depot at Weedon, which was once a small-arms depot for the British Army and dates back to the Napoleonic Wars.
A Heritage Fair at Abington Park Museum, free boat trips on the Grand Union Canal at Blisworth and even an opportunity to explore Northampton Magistrates Court are among other activities on offer.
This year's event is extra special as it marks 25 years since Heritage Open Days began, with Northampton considered a pioneer for the programme having taken part every year.
Councillor Hadland said: “We’re really proud to have participated in Heritage Open Days for 25 consecutive years, which gives people a chance to explore some of Northampton’s oldest and most iconic buildings and take part in some unique themed activities.
Many participating venues will be linked up by the Heritage Bus Service, so visitors can enjoy a free ride on a classic bus, departing from George Row in the town centre.
Details of all participating venues, days and times, along with the bus timetable, are in the event brochure, which can be downloaded from www.northampton.gov.uk/heritageopendays.
Pre-booking is required for some of the tours and early booking is recommended to avoid disappointment.
Further details about each venue can also be found on the Heritage Open Days website www.heritageopendays.org.uk.