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Suffolk's Heritage Open Days: All you need to know about what events are taking place and where and when they're happening

From a collection of military underwear to a cathedral’s precious ancient library, Suffolk is set to showcase its past and present as it joins the rest of the country in a ten day feast of history, traditions, community, and creativity.

Heritage Open Days are England's largest festival of history and culture - bringing together thousands of people every year.

Every September those taking part - from individuals to major visitor attractions - share knowledge, rarely seen treasures, experiences and cultural events. And it is all free.

Abbey Gardens Bury St Edmunds, part of the chalk streams walk
Abbey Gardens Bury St Edmunds, part of the chalk streams walk

This year a special theme is Edible England and among the local events are some exploring our culinary heritage and culture, from woodland foraging to forgotten recipes to regional delicacies.

Guided walks focusing on the landmarks and history of Suffolk’s towns are also a prominent feature.

During the festival which runs from Friday September 10 to Sunday September 19 there will be hundreds of chances to enjoy an event either close to home or further afield.

Some, but not all, require online booking via the Heritage Open Days website.

Here are just a few of the treats on offer.

The rotunda at Ickworth House
The rotunda at Ickworth House

Bury St Edmunds

A walk along two rare chalk streams.

Starting at the Fox Inn, Eastgate Street, explore the unique ecology of The River Lark and its tributary the Linnet which are among a small number of chalk streams in the world. They were important in the siting and development of Bury St Edmunds.

Thursday 16 September: 14.00

Sunday 19 September: 10.30

Booking advisable.

Abbeygate Cinema is holding Heritage Open Days events. Picture: Mecha Morton.
Abbeygate Cinema is holding Heritage Open Days events. Picture: Mecha Morton.

Abbeygate Cinema

Talks and tours by former manager Pat Church, history boards and memorabilia

Find out about the history of cinema in Bury St Edmunds and especially the Abbeygate which has been a picture house since the 1920s.

Local cinema legend Pat Church, who has worked at the cinema for more than 55 years, will host some sessions and has many stories to tell.

The tours will include the chance to see the projection room and the ongoing development work of the planned Screen 4, still to come.

History boards can be viewed 1100-1800 September 10 to 19.

Talks and tours available for booking Friday 10, Saturday 11, Sunday 12 and Saturday 18.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds
St Edmundsbury Cathedral, Bury St Edmunds

St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Ancient Library tour

Spend 30 minutes among the precious volumes in the cathedral’s Ancient Library and learn more about them with library guides. The Ancient Library was founded by Dr Miles Mosse in 1595 as a resource for clergy training. There are over 550 books in the collection, mainly printed in the 16th and 17th centuries. The library is in a room above the north-west porch, designed by Stephen Dykes Bower in 1960.

Selection of times on Friday September 10, Saturday September 11, Friday September 17 and Saturday September 18.

Booking required.

The Guildhall, Bury St Edmunds
The Guildhall, Bury St Edmunds

A stroll down Abbeygate Street

This Sunday, there is an opportunity to learn how change has affected Bury St Edmunds best known street over the past century.

The tour guide will talk of personalities, past use of some premises, architectural appearance and customs. This will especially appeal to those who may not normally undertake a guided tour because of physical or mental challenges or disability, including cognitive impairment.

Participants own reminiscences are welcome and will add to this pleasurable event. It is accessible to all, though Abbeygate Street is on a gentle slope.

Each tour will last approximately 20 to 30 minutes. Tours operate at 10 am, 10.45 am and 11.30 am and are free of charge but because group numbers are restricted to 15, pre-booking must be made either via www.burystedmundstourguides.org or direct through The Apex before Saturday at 5pm.

Bury St Edmunds Guildhall

The Guildhall has been at the heart of the community for nearly 1,000 years and has played host to some incredible events. Explore surprising stories of kidnappings, court-room dramas, and wartime heroes with special tours.

From imprisoning kidnapped monks to housing Cromwell’s soldiers, hosting abolitionist meetings to WWII secret military operations, the Guildhall has seen plenty of drama.

Indoor and outdoor tours will be available covering a range of topics, including the history of the ingredients that shaped our daily dining habits, and the secrets properties of plants in the Sensory Garden. Tours take around an hour.

You will also have free entry to a unique local feature - the Guildhall Royal Observer Corps Operations Room - the last of its kind left in the country.

Sunday 12 September and Sunday 19 September: 1000 - 1600

Booking required.

Holton post mill
Holton post mill


Drawers for Wars - a century of British and Commonwealth military underwear

Brook Farm Camp, Bell's Lane, Hawstead, IP29 5NW

Great War Huts invite you to rummage through their underwear with an exhibition showing how military undergarments have changed from the flannel pants of the Boer War to the fragment-proof polyester of the present day.

The exhibition will feature original garments, including many rare pieces, from servicemen and women from the two world wars, the national service period and beyond.

Tours of Brook Farm Camp and the hut conservation work are available daily at 14:00, giving you the chance to see how the camp is developing and hear the history of these fascinating First World War buildings.

Daily from Friday 10 September to Sunday 19 September: 10:00 - 16:00. Tours: 14:00

Booking required


Diss Corn Hall
Diss Corn Hall

Ickworth House

This stunning National Trust property has over 1800 acres of parkland, gardens and new all-weather path to enjoy. Ickworth is the perfect place to get back to nature with formal gardens, pleasure grounds, rolling Suffolk landscape and woodlands.

The Victorian-style Stumpery is the perfect place for children to explore and find the hidden dragon.

Head into the Rotunda (11am-last entry 3pm) and see Ickworth's an exhibition featuring some of the finest portrait artists, including Titian and Vigee le Brun.

Friday 10 September to Friday 17 September: 0900-1600

No booking required.


A guided walk through historic Clare

The Old Goods Shed, Clare Country Park, CO10 8NW

A 90 minute guided walk around a small market town which flourished for centuries. The remains of a Norman castle dominates the town, and many of Clare’s buildings have important stories to tell. More than 130 are listed and range from timber framed medieval structures through grand Georgian and Regency facades. Hear about the people behind these buildings and later how the coming of the railway changed the town. The walk also passes through the grounds of the still active priory.

Sunday 19 September: 1030 and 1400.

Clare Ancient House Museum
Clare Ancient House Museum

Clare Ancient House Museum

6 High Street, Clare

The museum dedicated to the history of Clare is housed in an important Grade 1 listed building partly dating from the 14th century, with extensive pargeting on the exterior. Display panels tell stories such as how Clare Common was first leased to the people by Queen Katherine of Aragon, and the importance of the Norman de Clare family in English history, including Magna Carta. Photographs and genealogical records of Clare families, and of the fallen in the World Wars, are also featured.

Saturday 11 September: 11:30 - 17:00

Sunday 12 September: 14:00 - 17:00

No booking required

National Horseracing Museum at Newmarket
National Horseracing Museum at Newmarket


National Horseracing Museum

The museum is a five acre indoor/outdoor site and comprises three complementary attractions, plus the chance to meet former racehorses and take a ride on the racehorse simulator.

NHRM tells the story of horseracing from its earliest origins to the worldwide phenomenon it is today, through works of art and artefacts including racing silks worn by famous jockeys. Interactive and audio-visual displays examine the physical attributes of elite horses and the importance of the thoroughbred pedigree.

Palace House occupies the last remaining part of King Charles II’s sporting palace, and houses some of the finest sporting art from around the UK.

Behind the Scenes tours reveal how former racehorses are retrained as staff walk and talk you through their routine.

Tuesday 14 September: 10:00 - 17:00, Behind the scenes tours at: 11:00, 14:30.

Book on the day.

Old painting of Sudbury market place showing buildings long since demolished
Old painting of Sudbury market place showing buildings long since demolished


1,000 years of Sudbury Market

Sudbury Town Hall

Displays of historical ephemera about Sudbury Market through the years. There will be cards available to tell your own stories, and please bring along any market ephemera you may have. This project, in partnership with Sudbury Ephemera Archive and Suffolk Archive involves volunteers researching and bringing together material on the history of all Sudbury’s markets, including the cattle and dead stock markets and the Corn Exchange, and recording the stories of today’s traders and shoppers. The stories collected will then be shared in a creative way to take them to a wider audience.

Saturday 18 September: 10.00 - 16.00

No booking required.

A Pub Crawl Through Time

Gainsborough's Statue, Market Hill, Sudbury

A guided, informative, and amusing wander around the historic town, visiting the sites and recounting the tales of some of the 79 Inns past and present.

Gainsborough statue on Market Hill, Sudbury. Picture Mark Westley
Gainsborough statue on Market Hill, Sudbury. Picture Mark Westley

With over 30 years experience as an Innkeeper, Peter Thorogood, the author of “A Pub Crawl Through Time” relates the lives of local characters and news events including the fires that destroyed two fine coaching inns, and the town riots

Sunday 19 September: 12 noon

Booking preferred

Eden-Rose Coppice

Mayor's Walk, Sudbury

Eden-Rose Coppice Trust provides safe outdoor natural environments for the support, relief and sanctuary for patients living with life limiting problems, typically cancer. Since 2006, in Suffolk they have helped over 190 people and their families.

Visitors to their Sudbury woodland can see why renewed interest in nature’s impact on human health and well-being is evident. Our use of our newly created vegetable garden and greenhouse shows how a connection with others facing similar health challenges through joint projects proves valuable to wellbeing.

Saturday 18 September: 10.00 - 16.00

No booking required.


A tranquil corner of the Eden Rose Coppice at Sudbury
A tranquil corner of the Eden Rose Coppice at Sudbury

Guided walks

Hadleigh Bus Station (to meet Guide), Magdalen Road, Hadleigh

Hadleigh Past and Present Town Tour. A Viking King, a fearless long distance aviator, and an artist and plantsman are all part of the story. Tour around the ancient market town includes a visit to an exhibition about the artist and plantsman “Memories of Sir Cedric Morris”.

Sunday 12 September; 14-00.

Walking with Trees town and riverside walk. Discover the origins and mythology of some of nature's elder statesmen, with 25 different trees explored.

Wednesday 15 September: 11-00

Miss Lawrence goes Shopping 1918 (Drama Tour). Join Miss Lawrence as she visits the High Street shops but as they were in the last year of World War One. Wartime rationing, day to day life and a little gossip.

Sunday 19 September: 11-00


Eye Heritage Day

Town Hall, Broad Street, Eye

Local Heritage groups working together to provide snapshots of Eye from Norman times to the 1940s including providing information on self guided walks around the town in the footsteps of the different eras.

Free Parking is available throughout the town.

Saturday 18 September: 1100 - 1600

No booking required.

Aldeburgh Museum
Aldeburgh Museum


Aldeburgh Museum

Combine culture with a trip to the coast and diiscover the seaside town’s fascinating history in a museum located within the Grade 1 listed, timber framed 16th Century Moot Hall.

Booking is not required but the museum will be limiting the number of visitors at any one time so there may be a wait.

Sunday 19 September: 1300 - 1600

The Red House

A chance to visit the former home of composer Benjamin Britten and his life partner the singer Peter Pears. The two men lived there as partners for twenty years, as one of Britain's most high-profile same-sex couples, and the house was both a focus for their creative activities and a place where they could lead a quiet domestic life together at a time when their relationship was not yet legal.

Saturday September 11, Sunday September 12, Saturday September 18, and Sunday September 19. 1100-1700 (last entry 1600)

Land Guard Fort at Felixstowe. Picture by Mark Westley.
Land Guard Fort at Felixstowe. Picture by Mark Westley.


Submarine mining establishment at Felixstowe Museum

Half-hour guided tours of the Ravelin Block which was completed by the Royal Engineers in 1878 as part of the Submarine Mining Establishment at Felixstowe, including the building where mines were prepared and tested, and the remains of the riverside jetty where the mines would be loaded onto the steam launch ‘Nellie’ to be laid across the river mouth to protect the port of Harwich.

The observation room was housed in the adjacent Landguard fort as were the firing boxes. In 1905 the defence of harbours was transferred to the Royal Navy (much to the disgust of the Royal Engineers).

Saturday 11 September: 11:00 - 16:00


Halesworth airfield museum
Halesworth airfield museum

Airfield Museum, Old Airfield, Upper Holton, Halesworth, IP19 8NH.

Talks by Richard Pymar about the World War Two airfield and the dramas associated with it.The airfield was mainly used as an American base and both the 56th Fighter Group and the 489th Bomb Group stayed there. Towards the end of the war and afterwards the base took on a rescue and training function before finally closing in February 1946.

The Airfield Museum houses an extensive collection of World War Two memorabilia.

Saturday 18 September and Sunday 19 September: 11.00.

No booking required


Puritan food at Walpole Old Chapel, Halesworth Road, Walpole, IP19 9AZ.

See the recipes and taste the food that 'put the fire in the belly' of the religious independents who worshipped here from 1649. Famously, Oliver Cromwell is said to have banned mince pies and Eccles cakes. But did he really? What were the Puritans' attitudes to food? Were they any different to anybody else's? Are there any Puritan recipes?

What better place to find out the answers to these questions, and to taste 'Cromwell's cake', than Walpole Old chapel. The chapel was constructed in around 1690, by converting an existing farmhouse, and has been very little altered since then.

Holton post mill
Holton post mill

Saturday 11 September and Sunday 12 September: 09.00 till 16.30.

No booking required


Holton Post Mill

Mill House, Southwold Road, Holton, IP19 8PW.

Holton Windmill is a Grade II listed post mill which has been preserved as a landmark.

It was built in 1749 and last worked in 1910. The mill was then largely stripped of machinery and used as a summer house. A fantail was added about this time. Although the sails have been removed it still turns to the wind. Interior tours courtesy of Suffolk County Council.

Sunday 19 September: 11.00- 17.00

Christchurch Mansion Ipswich
Christchurch Mansion Ipswich

No booking required


Christchurch Mansion, Soane Street, Ipswich, IP4 2BE

The Mansion is built on the site of the Holy Trinity Priory, and the walls and floors bear the scars of over 450 years of changing history.

The rooms are set in period fashions from the Tudors through to the Victorians. From musical instruments and toys to intricate glassware ceramics, the displays within Christchurch Mansion include something for everyone. The Suffolk Artists Gallery contains a collection of Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable paintings.

Saturday 11 September and Sunday 12 September: 11:00 - 17:00.

Ipswich Museum

Ipswich museum
Ipswich museum

High Street, Ipswich, IP1 3QH

Step back in time to when Ipswich was a vast area of grassland and our ancestors used stone tools. Continue on and discover how we learnt how to use bronze and iron and became a medieval town. Then explore Cardinal Wolsey’s birthplace and see how it survived through Civil war, World wars and into a modern era.

The Museum is home to a wide range of collections, from natural science to Egyptology, social history to world cultures.

Saturday 11 September and Sunday 12 September: 10.00 - 17.00.

Booking required

Suffolk Archives at The Hold

131 Fore Street, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP4 1LR

Netmaking in Lowestoft
Netmaking in Lowestoft

Suffolk Archives will be delivering guided tours of The Hold, the new archive and heritage centre on the Ipswich Waterfront.

As part of the national Heritage Open Days theme, Edible England, they will also be showcasing their archives relating to food, and on the garden trail visitors can discover the native herbs and plants used in local cookery and medicine.

Saturday 11 September and Sunday 12 September: 10.00am - 4pm.

No booking required.


Blessing the Herring Ceremony

Nightingale Road, Pakefield, NR33 7AU

Join Rev Sharon Lord of All Saints and St Margaret's Church, Pakefield in a traditional 'Blessing the Herring' ceremony, with hymns, prayers and thanks to those who venture out to sea. A special service, held on the Oddfellows Green.

Sunday 19 September: 15:00 - 15:30

Blessing the herring at Lowestoft
Blessing the herring at Lowestoft

No booking required

Lifeboat Wars

Parcels Office Public Exhibition Space, Lowestoft Central Railway Station, Denmark Road, Lowestoft, NR32 2EG

Local Historian, Trudie Jackson, presents her talk 'Lifeboat Wars' telling the story of the rivalry between Lowestoft and Pakefield.

Victorian Lifeboat men risked their lives to save others in peril on the sea. But behind their undoubted bravery and courage, there was a fierce rivalry between the boats stationed on our coasts fueled by the launching, rescue and salvage money they could earn. In 1885 led to a ferocious dispute between Lowestoft and Pakefield lifeboatmen which culminated in the people of Lowestoft marching to Pakefield and burning an effigy of its rector on the beach.

Sunday 12 September: 17:00 - 18:00

No booking required

Wild Routes and Fruits - the edible history of wayside plants in Kirkley.

The Kirkley Centre, 154 London Road South, Lowestoft, NR33 0AZ

A Suffolk lifeboat in the 19th century
A Suffolk lifeboat in the 19th century

A walk to explore edible Kirkley, led by experienced forager and bush-craft practitioner Jon Tyler. A gentle two hour amble, followed by an outdoor cooking session by Jon in the garden of the historic church hall.

Saturday 18 September: 1300-1600.

Booking required

Beatsters and Needling - The Craft of Net-making

Heritage Quay, South Pier, Lowestoft, Suffolk

Before you eat the catch, it has to be caught. Until the 1950s the drifter and trawler nets were created at home and in workshops by nimble fingered women called "beatsters". You will see a 1890's era, costumed beatster "needle" a net and you can have a go too.

The beatster will be dressed in 1890's costume and the materials used will be from that era. Visitors will be able to try their hand at net making with quick, ad hoc lessons.

Saturday 11 September: 1200-1600

Woodbridge tide mill
Woodbridge tide mill

No booking required.

East Anglian Transport Museum

Chapel Road, Carlton Colville, NR33 8BL

East Anglia's premier working transport museum is the only place in the UK where visitors can not only view, but also ride on all three principal forms of public transport from the earlier part of the 20th century - trams, trains and coaches.

Saturday 11 September: 1200-1630

No booking required


The Staff of Life at the Tide Mill

Tide Mill Way, Woodbridge IP12 1BY

The new exhibit highlights how flour as a raw material is used for the creation of bread and explains how people were reliant on its supply for survival.

Woodbridge Tide Mill is one of the Suffolk east coast's most iconic buildings. It has stood on the banks of the River Deben for over 800 years. It is now one of only two tide mills in the country still producing traditional stoneground wholemeal flour. Recently, restoration work has brought it back into use, endowed with a new giant waterwheel and three floors of fascinating exhibits that show the workings of the mill, what life was like for the miller, and all the other people and creatures at the mill.

Sunday 12 September and Sunday 19 September: 11:00 - 17:00

No booking required.

For more details and the full list of events in Suffolk plus booking details go online to https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/visiting/printable-area-lists/county/Suffolk.

To search other counties change Suffolk to Norfolk, Essex or wherever your fancy takes you.

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