Britain’s heritage opens its doors

This September, the annual Heritage Open Days event takes place, celebrating England’s architecture and culture by giving you free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission.

Lovelace architectural style shown at Horsley Towers Chapel

Each year, buildings of every age, style and function throw open their doors, ranging from castles to factories, town halls to tithe barns, Art Deco cinemas, parish churches to Buddhist temples. It is a once-a-year chance to have a sneaky peek inside a building you’ve always wondered about, to discover hidden architectural treasures and enjoy a wide range of tours, events, re-enactments and activities which bring to life local history and culture.

The Guildford area in Surrey, for example, which has a Heritage Open Weekend 11-12 September, has a wealth of heritage to explore. For example, one that caught my eye is the Lovelace Mausoleum, at St Martin’s Churchyard, East Horsley, which was built by the 1st Earl of Lovelace at the end of the 19th century. It’s a marvellous example of the unique Lovelace architectural style that dominates the village: a combination of flint, with moulded red, white and black terracotta brickwork. The Mausoleum has a tall and airy vault with a fine groined brick dome, similar to that found in the chapel of the nearby Horsley Towers (pictured). Stone stairs lead down to the historic sepulchre containing the tombs of the Earl, interred in 1893 and his second wife Jane who died in 1908. After decades of neglect, it has been fully restored to its original splendour by expert craftsmen.

Events on Castle Green in Guildford

Surrey events include, at Castle Green, Castle Street and High Street in Guildford, Period Costumed Military Life (pictured) on the Saturday, with demonstrations and exhibits of life in the military though the ages. And, on Thursday evening at the Council Offices in Dorking, a talk on The Legacy of Georgian Architecture, will be given by Barrie Clark, formerly of English Heritage, looking at the architecture of the Georgian period, 1714-1830, an important phase of our architectural history which included Baroque, Palladian, Gothick and Greek revivals and ending with Regency.You can find out more about Heritage Open Weekend events in Surrey and across England at taking place 9-12 September.

As we mark the 70th anniversary of The Battle of Britain this year, it’ll be of particular interest that among those buildings opening to the public is The Battle of Britain command centre – Bentley Priory in Stanmore, Hertfordshire – which has been closed to the general public during its 70 years as a RAF base. Re-enactors will re-create the tensions within the Operations Room and there will be a Spitfire and Hurricane flying display. The Second World War Beacon Hill Radar Tower at Harwich, Essex and the Royal Air Force College in Cranwell, Lincolnshire will also be open.

And in complete contrast, you can visit the new Aardman Animation headquarters in Bristol, home to the creators of Wallace and Gromit and housed within a state-of-the-art sustainable building. Not a cheesy offering at all!