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Visitors flock to East Anglia’s hidden gems as they throw open doors

PUBLISHED: 14:02 09 September 2017

The roof garden at the Willis building. Picture: PAUL GEATER

The roof garden at the Willis building. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Archant

Some of the best-known buildings across the region have thrown open their doors to villages as part of the Heritage Open Weekend.

The foyer of the Willis building. Picture: PAUL GEATERThe foyer of the Willis building. Picture: PAUL GEATER

In Ipswich visitors headed for the Willis building which dominates the town’s commercial area.

They were able to go up through the escalators of Norman Foster’s iconic building and stroll around the roof garden. The company’s staff restaurant was open to the public giving visitors the chance to have a snack or light meal with one of the most stunning views in town as a backdrop.

The Civic Drive junction from the top of the Willis building. Picture: PAUL GEATERThe Civic Drive junction from the top of the Willis building. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Another building that many people do not know well is the Masonic Hall in Soane Street. This too opened up to visitors – and members of the Masonic Brotherhood were on hand to show people around.

The hall’s Masonic Temple was open as were other rooms including the dining room, bar and robing room where members prepare for their meetings in the Temple.

Forbes Powrie at Ipswich Masonic Hall. Picture: PAUL GEATERForbes Powrie at Ipswich Masonic Hall. Picture: PAUL GEATER

It was built in 1879 and is a listed building with carefully-maintained features that is a treasure-trove for people interested in architecture.

Master Mason Forbes Powrie said opening the hall on occasions like this was an important step towards showing people more about the work of the order.

The Temple at Ipswich Masonic Hall. Picture: PAUL GEATERThe Temple at Ipswich Masonic Hall. Picture: PAUL GEATER

He said: “We have been working for the last 20 years to tell people what we do and about what the Masons are all about – we are one of the largest charity fundraising bodies in the country.

“We know we have a reputation for secrecy but we are trying to change that. We are happy to invite people to come here and see where we meet. We are not a ‘secret society’ but we are a ‘society with secrets.’”

Ipswich School in Henley Road. Picture: PAUL GEATERIpswich School in Henley Road. Picture: PAUL GEATER

But there are no secrets at the Hall – which is hired out to other organisations as well as Masons – this weekend!

Other sites open include Ipswich School, the Ipswich Institute in the town centre and Broomhill Pool which was linked to the town by a free historic bus ride on Saturday.

Elsewhere there are buildings open in Bury St Edmunds, including the Norman Tower, and Colchester where some of the town’s Roman relics are being highlighted during the weekend.

For theatre lovers there is interest in both towns – the New Wolsey and the Mercury theatres are both offering backstage tours so people can see what goes into creating a successful production.

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