West Suffolk: Visitors welcomed to heritage landmarks for national event

Gainsborough's House director Mark Bills.

Gainsborough's House director Mark Bills. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Some of west Suffolk’s most interesting historic buildings are set to open their doors to the public as part of the national Heritage Open Days celebrations.

Established in 1994, the annual event gives visitors free access to historical landmarks that are either not usually open to the public, or would normally charge an entrance fee.

Tomorrow, people will be able to visit Gainsborough’s House in a special day celebrating its current exhibition, Rembrandt the Printmaker. Throughout the day, print-making demonstrations will take place, using techniques in the style of the famous 17th Century Dutch artist.

Mark Bills, director of Gainsborough’s House, said: “I am delighted that we can open our doors free to everyone and I hope that people will take the opportunity to come and have a look.

“There is a lot to see in Gainsborough’s House, with three temporary exhibitions and a rare chance to see how Rembrandt created his great etchings.”

On Saturday, from 9am to 5pm, St Peter’s Church in Sudbury will also hold an open day to showcase the building and some of its many uses as a community venue.

The event will include bell-ringing demonstrations, craft stalls, musical entertainment and children’s crafts.

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Roger Green, chairman of the Friends of St Peter’s, will give guided tours of the building’s darkest recesses at noon and 2pm. Local man, Thomas Ryan, will also attempt a sponsored climb “as far as possible up the tower”.

The Sudbury Ephemera Archive (SEA) will be open in the Town Hall and visitors will be able to view the newly-refurbished mayor’s parlour, the heritage centre and the assembly room with its locally-produced silk hangings.

SEA will also display books produced pre-1985 from St Gregory and St Peter’s Junior School, showing work and photographs of pupils. The group would particularly like people who were at the school in 1968 to come to see if they can identify any photographs.

Meanwhile in Bury St Edmunds, the life of a Benedictine monk, the role of The Guildhall’s operations room during the Second World War, and the history of the town’s market, are among the new events added to this year’s Heritage Open Days.

There will be tours of the Norman Tower, a behind-the-scenes look at the Bury Fire Station, a chance to view the Suffolk Regiment Museum, and mock trials in the magistrates’ court.

There is also a ghost walk, tours of the Victory Ground Sports Hall and of St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s shared headquarters at West Suffolk House.

Sarah Stamp, St Edmundsbury cabinet member for leisure, culture and heritage, said: “We have so much to celebrate about our heritage in the town so please do take a look at what is a great programme.”

For more details visit www.westsuffolkdiary.co.uk/where-to-go/heritage-open-days-in-west-suffolk.