Heritage Open Days – Creativity Unwrapped

05th September 2023

Coventry, Ely, Newcastle and St Edmunsbury cathedrals have announced their plans for visitors during the nationwide Heritage Open Days which starts later this week.

Heritage Open Days – Cathedrals announce their plans.

This year the theme of Heritage Open Days (HODs) is Creativity Unwrapped and organisers want to share England’s colourful history of creativity and celebrate the experts and enthusiastic amateurs whose passions and skills add something special to our daily lives.

All our cathedrals will be offering something new to discover over the ten-day HODs festival which starts this Friday (September 8) until Sept 17th with free events and experiences.

Find your nearest cathedral here 

Coventry Cathedral is looking for stories and memorabilia to add to a new digital archive about the Second World War. The Cathedral is collecting stories as part of a nationwide campaign on the 9th September, during Heritage Open Days.

The campaign is organised by Their Finest Hour, a team based at the University of Oxford and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is aiming to collect and preserve everyday stories and objects from the Second World War.

Items such as diaries, letters, photographs, memoirs, objects or stories about family experiences in the war are all wanted for the archive.

A spokesperson for Coventry Cathedral said:

“Any, from the extraordinary to the seemingly ‘ordinary’. We want our archive to reflect the diverse experiences of all those affected by the war: men and women across the British Empire and the Commonwealth who worked in industry, on the land, or in other roles; ran households and fought a daily battle of rationing; served in or supported the armed forces; and even those who refused to go to war for political or religious reasons.

You can bring your items to the cathedral between 11am and 3pm.

Other events for HODs include the chance to get up close with artist Martin Green as part of the cathedral’s Broken Angel project – to replace the shattered Hutton original window.

His practice fuses painting, drawing, printmaking, collage, assemblage. He also acts in what he terms ‘live curating’.

In the time since the last of the Broken Angel commissions, he has established a temporary working space in the Cathedral’s basement.

There’s also the opportunity to see the cathedral’s collection of John Piper vestments, tower climbs and entry to the Blitz museum.

Heritage Open Days - Creativity Unwrapped

More info here.

Ely Cathedral has extended opening hours during the Heritage Open Day weekend offering special evening tours including the tower tour and an evening cathedral highlights tour. Other offers include a living history poetry workshop exploring the story of Brythnoth, one of Ely Cathedral’s oldest residents,who is recorded in the old English epic ‘The Battle of Maldon’.

A tour of the Physick Garden to discover how the monks of Ely Monastery treated the sick using herbs and plants grown in their own garden.

Plus there’s the rare opportunity to visit Prior Crauden’s Chapel, a tiny hidden gem not usually open to the public.

Ely’s Stained Glass Museum will be open for free on Saturday 16 September.

Pre-booking for some events is required and numbers are limited. – find out more here.

Newcastle Cathedral will celebrate Heritage Open Days on Thursday 14 and Sunday 17 September.  Visitors can join volunteers at various locations within the Cathedral to gain an insight into the work they do with the opportunity to join as part of the team!

There’s also FREE ‘Mini History Tours’ and ‘Tower Tour Tasters’ across these two dates. Visit TicketSource to secure your tickets in advance, as these tours are subject to availability.

St Edmundsbury Cathedral is opening the doors of its Ancient Library for tours, and the Norman Tower Bellringers will give visitors a chance to view the rarely-seen bell tower – one of the oldest bell towers in the UK.

The Ancient Library at St Edmundsbury Cathedral was founded by Dr Miles Mosse in 1595 as a resource for clergy training. There are over 550 books in the Library, mainly printed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As part of the Heritage Open Days, 30-minute tours of the library will be available 8, 9, 15 and 16 September. Visitors will be able to explore some of the books in the collection and learn a little more about them with Cathedral Library Guides.

The Norman Tower will be open to visitors to learn more about bellringing on Saturday 9 September. Tours are available at various times during the day and each include a demonstration of bellringing and a brief history of the Norman Tower, the bells and the art of bellringing.

The Norman Tower was previously the main gateway to the Abbey. The Norman Tower is detached from the Cathedral and was built between 1120 and 1148 and is one of the oldest Norman buildings in the UK and one of the most complete Norman buildings in England.

Sarah Friswell, Visitor Experience Manager at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, said:

“We’re thrilled to offer something a little different for visitors during Heritage Open Days. Our Ancient Library is a special space and is a real treat for book lovers and those interested in history. We’re also very grateful to have the Norman Tower Bellringers open up their space to the public.”

All Heritage Open Day sessions are free but must be pre-booked to secure a space. Visit stedscathedral.org/whats-on for more information on times available, and to book.

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, involving thousands of local volunteers and organisations. Every year in September it brings people together to celebrate their heritage, community and history.