We are very lucky to have a wealth of historical places to visit all across the UK. Since 1994, England has taken part in a European heritage 'festival' designed to open up all those interesting, slightly quirky and culturally-rich destinations for anyone to enjoy. Known as Heritage Open Days, each year England's properties throw their doors open for the public to visit for free - in 2017, the Heritage Open Days take place on 7th to 10th September.
Each annual festival focuses on different aspects of our history. This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of two key events in 1967:
1) the partial de-criminalisation of homosexuality (with a focus on LGBTQ heritage), and
2) the creation of UK conservation areas (which required Local Authorities, for the first time, to identify and protect areas of particular historic or architectural interest).
We've found some of the best places to visit this year in the areas closest to our self-storage facilities, in Kings Cross, Camden, Battersea, Clapham, Bermondsey and New Cross
. Hopefully we can tempt you to venture somewhere new (for free!). There isn't much you can do for free these days, so make the most of the Heritage Open Days and see some of the hidden treasures this country has to offer, right here on your doorstep.
1. The Foundling Museum - Handel's Water Music: 300 years
Located in Brunswick Square, 10 minutes' walk from Kings Cross, The Foundling Museum was originally established in 1739 by Thomas Coram to care for abandoned babies. It is now a museum of art and history, celebrating the positive impact of various artists on the lives of children since the hospital was first established. The Gerald Coke Handel Collection is housed here and during the Heritage Open Day on 7th September this year you can learn more about the music of George Frideric Handel - specifically, his Water Music, which was first performed over 300 years ago at a party on the Thames. The museum is open 10am to 5pm, with a talk about the Water Music delivered at 11am. No need to book; the museum is fully accessible to visitors with disabilities and there is a nice cafe.
2. Royal Horticultural Society - Behind the Scenes Tour of Codlings, Costards and Biffins
What could be more English than the humble apple? Learn all there is to know about the surprisingly interesting and complex history of our apple-growing heritage. This RHS exhibition puts on display original artwork by William Hooker as well as rare books about the classification and cultivation of many varieties of apples spanning the last 200 years. Introduced by a curator, take a tour on 7th, 8th or 9th September at 11am and 2pm behind the scenes at the Lindley Library, or call in to see the exhibition any time 10am to 5pm. Booking is required for the tours as places are limited.
3. St Dunstan's & All Saints Church - Bells of Stepney Ring Out
If you're wondering why the Bells of Stepney are familiar, it's because they are mentioned in the 'Oranges and Lemons' nursery rhyme, which you are probably now humming. Located on Stepney High Street, the bells have rung here for over 600 years. On 7th September only, from 6.30pm to 9.30pm, you can come along and watch the bellringers during their weekly practice. The tradition of bellringing is passed down from generation to generation and requires considerable skill, rhythm and specialist techniques - learn more about this fascinating piece of national history and listen to the ancient bells. Pre-book to ensure that you can see the bells being rung as places are strictly limited.
4. Dr Johnson's House
This 300 year old townhouse is located in Gough Square. Once home to writer Samuel Johnson, you can see where he worked on the original 'Dictionary of the English Language'. There are some activities that will appeal to children, too, and you can browse a copy of his original work. No need to book; the house is open on 10th September 11am to 5pm.
5. St George's German Lutheran Church, Aldgate
Built in 1762, this is the oldest standing German Church in Britain. There is a fascinating history behind why this church came to be, concerning the German-speaking refugees who found themselves based in the Aldgate area. Open on 7th September at 10am, take a look around this 18th century church that once served the area known as 'Little Germany'.
6. St Anne's Limehouse - Tower Open Day
Built in 1711 under the rule of Queen Anne in response to demand by a growing population in London (and possibly due to overflowing graveyards in the existing churchyards following the 1666 plague), St Anne's clock tower is still the highest in London. It was also once used by the shipping industry to keep accurate time. Explore the Tower during the Heritage Open Days and take a look at the mysterious square-based pyramid in the grounds...
7. Foundling Museum - Young Artists' Platform: Handel's Heroes and Heroines
Another special event at the Foundling Museum is a performance at 1pm on 7th September by Josephine Goddard, a soprano who will perform some of George Frideric Handel's most celebrated arias. The Foundling Museum's connection with Handel is rooted in the fact that his Messiah raised a great deal of money to support the Foundling Hospital in its care for abandoned babies and children. No booking is required.
8. Dora House
This is the home of the Royal British Society of Sculptors, and during a Heritage Open Day on 9th September 11am to 4pm you can explore their archives and book sale. Home to architects, sculptors, painters and designers for a hundred years, as well as the photographers Fry and Elliot, you can visit this important historical home of English art and wonder at what you find.
Once again - all of these events are free during the Heritage Open Days. What better opportunity will you have to explore some lesser-known aspects of our cultural history?
Discover more local interest
articles on Safestore’s blog
where you’ll find city guides and things to do in places near you and more. Or, if you require London storage
we have a range of self storage options in over 40 locations – find your nearest store
for a quote today.