TAKE a free look into Hampshire’s past as dozens of the county’s heritage hotspots open up their doors to the public from tomorrow.
Heritage Open Days, a nationwide event run in partnership with English Heritage, allows people to access properties and sites, without any admission charges, and learn some of the fascinating stories, facts, and tales from the county’s rich history.
The four-day event, which runs until Sunday, will see a wide range of industrial sites and buildings, museums and even a lighthouse welcome visitors across Hampshire.
More than 100 separate places, together with associated events, are planned to be open in the county in the coming days.
Some of the highlights include a walking tour of Winchester, a tour of the generator room at the Hurst Spit lighthouse near Lymington, while in Southampton the city’s maritime and archaeology museums will be open for people to enjoy free of charge.
The volunteers at Bursledon Brickworks will be staging a series of special events, including miniature train rides, and an arts exhibition, from 10am to 4pm tomorrow.
On Sunday, Townhill Park House in Southampton, now home to The Gregg School, together with its beautiful gardens and grounds will be welcoming visitors.
Every day there will be a chance to join one of HMS Victory’s tour guides for a unique opportunity to go below the water line.
Walk under 3,500 tonnes of ship and view Victory’s keel at close range for a completely different perspective of the historic ship in Portsmouth dockyard.
The open days celebrate England’s architecture and culture by allowing visitors free access to interesting properties that are either not usually open, or would normally charge an entrance fee.
Organised by volunteers, usually property owners or managers, for local people, Heritage Open Days is England’s biggest and most popular voluntary cultural event.
The nationwide event, which last year attracted about one million visitors, provides people with a unique opportunity to explore and enjoy these sometimes hidden, often curious and always interesting places in English cities, towns and villages.
People from all walks of life, including civic society members, estate managers, conservationists, company directors, parishioners, tourism managers and education officers, who care about and take pride in the environment they live in make Heritage Open Days happen.
The scheme aims to bring people and places together, encourage visitors to explore the buildings on their doorstep and to become an active member of the community.
Heritage Open Days was established in 1994 as England’s contribution to European Heritage Days, in which 49 countries now participate.
Dr Simon Thurley, English Heritage’s chief executive, said: “Heritage Open Days this year is set to be even bigger than last year, so even if you are a regular visitor there will be something new for you to see and do.
“This is a chance to explore not just country houses but the history and culture of everything from Buddhist temples to mines, farms, pubs and factories.
“Heritage Open Days is about people and places, it celebrates community and reflects the importance of the built environment in our lives.’’