Local history comes to life during Heritage Open Days

Published: Thursday, 29 August 2019

Over 30 historic buildings, churches and venues across Northampton and beyond will be open to the public for free, from Friday 13 to Sunday 15 September, as part of national Heritage Open Days.

The three-day event, coordinated locally by Northampton Borough Council and run by volunteers, 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. This year's event is extra special, as it marks 25 years since Heritage Open Days began.

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 campaign.

Councillor Tim Hadland, Cabinet member for regeneration and enterprise, 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.

“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.“

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 round Church of the Holy Sepulchre, and a 1940’s themed open day at the restored engine shed on the university’s Waterside Campus, 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 Hardingstone, plus the Grade I listed Upton Hall, while 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 sit in the Northampton Magistrates Court are among other activities on offer.

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