Heritage Open Days: Explore the places and spaces on your doorstep for free

Heritage Open Days, England’s largest festival of history and culture, returns in September 2021. Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, local people and visitors will be able to explore hidden places and try new experiences across the East of England.

From aviation history to post offices of the past, heritage baked goods to healing herbs, this year’s programme has something for everyone and it’s all free.

Many events will explore this year’s theme, Edible England, offering opportunities to learn about food production, celebrate local specialities and uncover the customs and quirks around what we eat and drink. 

Sarah Holloway, Programme Manager for Heritage Open Days, said: “We’re all interested in where we live but we don’t necessarily know the stories behind the buildings and spaces we walk past each day. Our event organisers keep finding creative ways to tell these tales and keep them alive. 

“HODs connects people through shared experiences and this year, that feels more important than ever. It’s also one of the reasons we chose Edible England as our theme. Food brings people together and what we eat and drink is at the heart of much of our culture, our history, our communities, and our daily lives.” 

Heritage Open Days is coordinated and promoted nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Every single Heritage Open Days event is free, including access to many sites that usually charge for admission.

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “We’re delighted our players are able to continue to support Heritage Open Days in 2021. The festival has always been about bringing communities together, and this year we’re particularly excited to see how this can be done through food and drink events. It’s certainly a tasty theme!” 

Highlights from across the region include:

EDIBLE ENGLAND 

Norwich Cathedral: the herb garden, the infirmary and health in monastic times

Norwich Cathedral, Norwich, Norfolk, NR1 4EH

Visit the cathedral herb garden here you will hear about the culinary uses of various herbs, with a particular focus on those used for medicinal purposes within the infirmary.

Tuesday 14 and Thursday 16 September: 11:30am to 12:30pm 

Pre-booking: Required

Bushells Bakery – London Road South

210 London Road South, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 0BB

An exhibition of the history of Bushells Bakery, one of the town’s oldest businesses and a chance to try free samples of some of the specially recreated heritage baked treats that our ancestors would have enjoyed in the town. Come and have a taste!

Friday 10, Monday 13, Tuesday 14, Wednesday 15, Thursday 16, Friday 17 September: 8:30am to 3pm

Saturday 11 and Saturday 18 September: 08:30am to 2pm 

No booking required

OTHER HIGHLIGHTS

Hylands House and Estate – Open Day

Hylands House, London Road, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 8WQ

Visit the majestic Hylands House, set in its parkland estate, on Farmer’s Market day. Discover the special exhibition on the lives of the servants who worked on the Estate and in the House. Browse at your own leisure or join the 11am guided tour led by one of the Hylands House team.

Sunday 19 September: 10am to 4pm

No booking required

Marconi History Guided Walk and site tour

The Marconi Wireless Factory, Hall Street, Moulsham Street, Chelmsford, Essex, CM2 0HG

Celebrate Marconi’s achievements – and those of the thousands of local people who worked for the company. This walking tour visits the sites where the radio equipment for the RMS Titanic was built and where pioneering radio broadcasts were made.

Friday 10 September: 10am to 11:30am

Pre-booking: Required

Colne Valley Postal History Museum

109 Head Street, Halstead, Essex, CO9 2AZ

Enjoy lots of ‘hands on’ experiences at this privately owned museum. Children can try on uniform, work the machines and post their own letters. See how a rural post office looked in the 1940s/50s and 1980/90s, plus, at least one vintage mail van will be in attendance.

Saturday 11 September: 10am to 4pm

Pre-booking: Preferred

Visit and climb the tower of Hunstanton Lighthouse

The Lighthouse, Lighthouse Close, Hunstanton, Norfolk, PE36 6EL

Visit the dungeon and then climb the stairs to the top of the tower and enjoy the fantastic view over the Wash and adjoining town. 

Friday 10 September: From 11am to 2pm at half hourly intervals

Pre-booking: Required

Stracey Arms Drainage Mill Open Day

Mill House, New Road, Tunstall, Norwich, Norfolk, NR13 3QE

Find out about the history of this drainage mill, from the people who ran it, to the current project to restore it. This unique site has a brick tower mill and was once used for draining the surrounding marshland. 

Sunday 12 September: midday to 4pm

No booking required

National Horse Racing Museum

National Horse Racing Museum, Palace House, Palace Street, Newmarket, Suffolk, CB8 8EP

Meet former racehorses and find out how they are retrained on a ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour of the museum. Your visit will not be complete without riding the famous racehorse simulator in the King’s Yard Galleries (age limits may apply).

Book on the day

Tuesday 14 September: 10am to 5pm (behind the scenes tours at 11am and 2:30pm)

Drawers for Wars – A Century of British and Commonwealth Military Underwear

Brook Farm Camp, Bell’s Lane, Hawstead, Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, IP29 5NW

Discover how military undergarments have changed from the flannel pants of the Boer War to the fragment-proof polyester of the present day! Tours of Brook Farm Camp and the hut conservation work are available daily at 2pm. 

Friday 10 to Sunday 19 September: 10am to 4pm with a tour at 2pm

Pre-booking: Required for the 2pm tour

Event listings are available at www.heritageopendays.org.uk. Search by location or use the map function to discover what else is happening in your local area.

To ensure that visitors are safe and that events can keep to the latest government guidelines, all event details are subject to change. Visitors should re-check details on our website before confirming plans nearer the time.

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