Explore East Anglia’s heritage with free family open days

Go behind the scenes at The Red House, Benjamin Britten's home at Aldeburgh during the Heritage Open

Go behind the scenes at The Red House, Benjamin Britten's home at Aldeburgh during the Heritage Open Day weekends Photo: Philip Vile - Credit: Archant

Heritage Open Days are going ahead between September 11-20 offering free entry to many historical properties and this year they are also offering virtual tours to venues which remain closed.

Get a sneak peak at the new Suffolk Archive Centre The Hold during the Heritage Open Day weekend Pi

Get a sneak peak at the new Suffolk Archive Centre The Hold during the Heritage Open Day weekend Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Because of lockdown and the Coronavirus pandemic there hasn’t been much opportunity to get out and explore either historical or natural heritage this year but the arrival of the Heritage Open Days should do much to remedy the situation.

This annual event is England’s largest festival of history and culture and this year, for the first time, the programme will include a mix of virtual tours and digital experiences as well as live ‘on-the-ground’ events.

This year’s theme is Hidden Nature and will offer opportunities to discover the secret natural histories and stories of not just our landscapes, but also gardens, urban green spaces, farms, waterways, buildings and culture.

Annie Reilly, head of producing at Heritage Open Days, said: “Heritage Open Days is all about sharing amazing stories of the places, spaces, nature, heritage and history around us, and feeling part of a community has never been more important.”

Explore Felixstowe's Landguard Fort online during the Heritage Open Day weekends Picture: SARAH L

Explore Felixstowe's Landguard Fort online during the Heritage Open Day weekends Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

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“We’ve been planning new ways to keep people connected with each other and their local area, whether it’s from home with our new digital programme or exploring Hidden Nature in the great outdoors.”

In-person events will include exclusive walks, talks and exhibitions and explore archives, tunnels and gardens not normally open to the public, with adherence to local government guidelines ensuring a safe and relaxing visit. Continued support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery means every Heritage Open Days event is free - including entry to museums, country houses and other attractions which usually charge for admission.

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“New online activities mean that communities across the East of England will be able to celebrate the stories of the places and spaces that are important to them in different and innovative ways. Meanwhile, people from across the country will be able to ‘visit’ the region and participate in events such as interactive workshops and digital tours from the comfort of their home.”

Here’s a look at just some of this year’s highlights in Suffolk and north Essex:

Suffolk Archives: Ipswich

Beginners Family History Online Helpdesk

Book an online session to help you get started on discovering your Suffolk family history

Book a slot for a one-to-one online session to help you begin your family history research in Suffolk. These 30-minute sessions will take place by online video call (or by phone if you prefer), and we will be able to advise you about how to get started. This could include what information you will be able to find online, and what you might find in the Suffolk Archives collections. By the end of the session you should have some useful pointers on how to start your research.

Please have any useful information you may need to hand – this could include the names of the people you are interested in researching, and an idea of when and where they were born and/or died. The Family History Advice webpage may be of help in thinking about this: https://www.suffolkarchives.co.uk/family-history-research/

Opening Times:

Saturday September 12: 11am, 11.30, 12, 1.30, 2, 2.30, 3pm

Sunday September 13: 11am, 11.30, 12, 1.30, 2, 2.30, 3pm

Online pre-booking: Required

Booking closes: September 11, 2020

See inside The Hold - Suffolk’s new archive centre

Enjoy a sneak peek of what is to come at The Hold with a new online photography display.

The Hold is Suffolk’s brand new archive centre on Ipswich Waterfront; offering state-of-the-art facilities for archive storage and plenty of space for visitors to enjoy the wonderful collections, as well as a café, shop, exhibition gallery, and teaching space shared with the University of Suffolk. It was planned to open The Hold in spring 2020, but due to Covid-19 restrictions this has had to be delayed.

This new photography display will provide an exciting taste of what is to come and whet your appetite for a future visit.

No booking required

From Parchment to Pigment: Hidden Natural Materials in the Archives

Online display exploring what Suffolk archives are actually made of

Do you know your paper from your parchment? Or how wasps and trees can make a vital ingredient for ink?

This online display from Suffolk Archives will explore the natural materials that our collections are actually made of.

Available anytime. No booking required

Aldeburgh Museum

Aldeburgh Museum, Moot Hall, Market Cross Place, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, IP15 5DS

Once in a lifetime opportunity to discover Aldeburgh’s fascinating history for FREE! Aldeburgh may be a small, seaside town famous for its fish & chips but it punches way above its weight on the world stage. Stand in a piece of history - visit us

Aldeburgh Museum is located within the Grade 1 listed, timber framed 16th Century Moot Hall building in a prominent position on the town’s seafront. It is one of the most important timber-framed, public buildings in England. Originally it contained six small shops and a jail on the ground floor and a spacious meeting chamber on the first floor. The Tudor Moot Hall has been the local centre of governance for over 400 years and continues to this day as the meeting place of the local Town Council.

Aldeburgh is a seaside town with an internationally regarded cultural scene, particularly through its links with Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears, writers, authors and more recently with artists such as Maggi Hambling. After a major redevelopment, made possible with grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the museum reopened in October 2019. Refurbishment works include new exhibits, interactive and digital displays and fascinating films with child friendly activities including trails and walks showcasing Aldeburgh’s rich and diverse heritage. To celebrate Heritage Open Days, Aldeburgh Museum is offering free entry to visitors on Sunday 20th.

Due to the current COVID situation, entry is via timed bookings which are available through the museum’s website. If there is space available, you may be able to visit without booking, but to avoid disappointment, booking time slots is strongly recommended. Face coverings are mandatory for adults.

Opening times: Sunday September 20: 1-4pm

Online pre-booking: Preferred

Due to covid, please book if possible as numbers are limited

Natural Britten

The Red House, Golf Lane, Aldeburgh, Suffolk, IP15 5PZ

Explore the natural world in the peaceful setting of The Red House in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. On 12-13 September there will be live music and bookable free drawing sessions and 19-20 September a special exhibition on Britten and nature’s influence.

Benjamin Britten is known for capturing the character of the sea in his music but did you know that he was inspired by the special habitat unique to the Suffolk coast and the rural setting of his home at The Red House? Over two weekends the site will be open for free with outdoor activities suitable for children plus a special audio guide to the garden and an introduction to Britten’s music that is connected to the natural world.

Additional activities include:

Saturday September 12: ‘Art in the Garden’, a free drawing session in the garden with botanical illustrator Ruth Wharrier, 11.30am and 1.30pm (free, but booking essential)

Sunday September 13: tenor Ben Vonberg-Clark and harpist Valeria Kurbatova will sing a selection of Britten folksongs at 12pm, 1pm and 2pm (free to visitors)

Saturday September 19 and Sunday 20: ‘Britten and Nature’ Archive display

To ensure the safety of our visitors booking in advance is essential to visit the site.

Opening Times from Saturday September 12 to Sunday September 20: 11-3pm

To access the site you must pre-book a time slot.

Email: info@brittenpears.org or go online.

Eye Heritage Event - Years Bygone

Town Hall, Broad Street, Eye, Eye, Suffolk, IP23 7AF

The heritage of Eye will be on display in the Town Hall, then enjoy a walking tour to visit the remains of centuries of history. to the more recent history of, USAAF. in WW2

Eye has recordable heritage from the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons on through the Norman era onto the Medieval period that saw the construction of our beautiful church and adjacent Grammar School. The Abbey built at the same time was dissolved in the time of Henry VIII, the remains can still be noted. Tudor and Victorian cottages line the tiny streets which follow the route of the Outer Bailey of the old Castle.

A footpath from the north end of the town will take you up onto the old World War 2 Eye Airfield, home of the 490th Bomb Group. Much of the runway system is available to walk on and signs at each access point will provide a QR code to help find the way, making it very easy to follow in the footsteps of the 6500 young Americans who stood alongside us during the Second World War. During the campaign, 235 young Americans stationed on the base lost their lives.

The Victorian town hall will host a small exhibition of items and information from across the centuries for those who are unable to walk so far. Walking guides will be available to help with information on routes.

Opening Times: Saturday September 12: Town Hall, noon to 4pm. No booking required

Felixstowe Museum

Felixstowe Museum, Felixstowe, Suffolk

An online tour will be available from September 12.

This award-winning museum located adjacent to Landguard Fort, contains an extensive collection of artefacts and displays which reflect Felixstowe’s rich history. No booking required

Felixstowe Town Hall

Undercliff Road West, Felixstowe, Suffolk, IP11 2AG

A lovely Victorian civic building, c1892, which has retained some original features.

An online tour of the building will be available. No booking required

Harvest House

Harvest House, Felixstowe, Suffolk

An online tour will be available from September 12. One of Felixstowe’s gems designed by Thomas Cotman. This Grade II listed building, opened as a hotel in 1903, still displays many original features. The interiors have been lovingly cared for and restored. No booking required

Landguard Fort

Landguard Fort, View Point Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk, IP11 3TW

There will be an online tour of this fascinating Grade 1 building. Replacing an earlier 17th century fort on this site, the current fort is Georgian with later modifications in the 19th and 20th centuries. Landguard Nature Reserve is close by. No booking required

Martello Tower P

Langer Road, Felixstowe, Suffolk

An online tour will be available from September 12. One of the very few surviving towers in England still in public ownership, Martello Tower P and its site has a history of continuous use from its completion around 1812 during the Napoleonic Wars, through to the coastguard and as a telegraph station, via the Cold War to its present use as a Coastwatch Station. No booking required. Max 20 people per tour/session.

Former Deben High School

Garrison Lane, Felixstowe, Suffolk

An online tour will be available from September 12. This 1930s school building still shows a number of features from that period. No booking required

The Seafront Gardens

Felixstowe Town Council, Felixstowe, Suffolk

An online tour will be available from September 12. The Seafront Gardens offer landscaped planting based on plans from 100 years ago. Ornamental features appear among interconnected pathways.

Trees in Art

Tree Trail from Magdalen Road Bus Station , Hadleigh , Suffolk

People are invited to spend some quality time with beautiful trees on a town or river walk. Some trees are as ancient as the buildings you’ll see. Why not use the Hadleigh Tree Trail and sketch or write your impressions as a memory.

What’s not to love about trees? They provide the oxygen we breathe, soak up pollution and stabilise the earth. They give us materials, shelter, fire, medicine and food. They communicate silently with our immune systems and emotions.

Throughout the world, trees appear in folklore, mythology and spiritual traditions. Trees make town and countryside beautiful. They have inspired Suffolk artists such as Constable, Gainsborough, Alfred Munnings, Cedric Morris and Maggi Hambling. There are also many famous Suffolk nature writers, such Roger Deakin, Richard Mabey and Melissa Harrison.

A safe and quiet spot to sit and work is around St Mary’s church and the Deanery Tower. You will also find some perfect spots along the river walk. Nature Hunters activity sheets are provided for children.

Afterwards the magic happens and you start noticing trees everywhere: how individual they are and the many tree and leaf patterns in wood, pottery and textiles

You can collect or download the Tree Trail map and other activities from visithadleighsuffolk.co.uk where you will discover more information.

Follow the ‘Hadleigh Gets Creative’ Facebook page for the latest details to meet up with others for a Sketchcrawl. Walking with Trees with Town Guide has to be booked, Tree Trail is self guided. Call: 077 487 10598

Memories of Hadleigh Old School

The Old School 3-5 Bridge Street, Hadleigh, Ipswich, Suffolk, IP7 6BY

The day is a chance for former pupils of the boys’ school to visit their old classroom. It is also an opportunity for music fans of the concerts and festival of more recent times. The building dates from the Victorian era and a school until 1968.

The Old School on Bridge Street, will open its doors, with free entry, to an exhibition of its archive and, a pop-up Art show, by local artist, Cris Coe.

The event will reveal plans to develop the venue as a cultural hub and to seek suggestions from the local community about events they would like to attend and participate in.

The Old School is an integral part of Hadleigh’s academic and cultural history. It is situated on the site of the original school, Posfords Elementary, bequeathed in the will of John Alabaster in 1637. The current red brick, Victorian building was constructed in 1853 as the town’s Church of England Boys’ School, until 1968.

The Old School was purchased by international concert pianist, Thomas McIntosh, and his wife Miranda. They made the Old School their home and licensed it as a public entertainment venue, hosting concerts and art exhibitions for over 40 years. McIntosh founded the East Anglian Summer Music Festival in 1978 and Opera Anglia in 1989.

Amongst events and activities planned from early 2021, are music concerts, poetry slams, art exhibitions, fashion styling and cabaret nights. The venue boasts exceptional acoustics, disabled access (via the driveway to Door 5) and compliance with all Health & Safety requirements are followed strictly. Public entry is via Bridge Street pavement; notice of special requirements is appreciated in advance.

Opening Times: Saturday September 12: 10 -4pm

No booking required

Hidden Hedgerow Dyes (family event) at Clare Castle Country Park

The Station Masters House, Malting Lane, Clare, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 8NW

Come and explore the fascinating world of natural dyes and how to make a whole rainbow of colours from the trees and flowers all around us. Make your own tree tie dye square, have a go at wheel braiding while the dye pot simmers away and prepare your own solar dye bath to continue the fun at home.

There are places for 10 children (and accompanying adults) at each session.

Based just outside of Bury St Edmunds, The Woodland Haberdasher has always had a great love of all things wild and wonderful that grow from the land. Spending much of her time making, experimenting, reading, walking about and occasionally creating fires in Suffolk, Fay’s eyes were opened to a new realm of experimentation and carving.

She enjoys the process of harvesting wild and raw materials and turning them into beautiful yet functional objects that are loved and used every day. An enthusiastic teacher, she has been working in collaboration with Suffolk Wildlife Trust for the last five years, running workshops and talks for the WI, Guiding and other groups.

Opening Times: Saturday September 19: 10-noon & 1-3pm.

Online pre-booking: Required

Booking Contact: Natalie Tarling - call: 01787277902

Email: volunteer@clarecastlecountrypark.co.uk

Guided Walks Round Sudbury

Sudbury Town Council, Old Market Place, Sudbury, Suffolk, CO10 1TL

Sudbury: England’s Silk Capital

The streets and buildings of Sudbury are steeped in silk history. Join our qualified tour guide as they lead you around Sudbury’s own silk trail on Saturday September 12: 1-2pm. Find out why silk weaving came to town and why Sudbury can proudly claim to be England’s Silk Capital.

Step Into The Sudbury Story

A Guided Walk around the beautiful Market Town of Sudbury on Saturday September 12: 1-2pm

Accompany a blue badge guide around the streets of this lovely market town and learn of its diverse history from The Peasants Revolt, Charles Dickens, 101 Dalmatians and the stars and stripes link. The walk will also include seeing Simon of Sudbury’s head which is in St. Gregory’s Church.

Strolling in Gainsborough’s Footsteps

Tread the streets where Thomas Gainsborough used to walk and learn about this world renowned artist and his family on Saturday September 12: 2-3pm

Thomas Gainsborough was born in Sudbury and lived here with his wife and two daughters. The new Gainsborough gallery is being built in town and is due to be finished in March 2021 when Sudbury will become the world heritage centre for Gainsborough.

All walks must be pre-booked at Sudbury Tourist Information. Call: 01787 881320

Email: sudburytic@sudburytowncouncil.co.uk

Autumn on The Grit - Lowestoft’s long-lost fishing village comes to life

Dean Parkin, who co-wrote the book of ‘The Grit’ with Jack Rose, shares stories, photos, archive audio and film about Lowestoft’s long-lost fishing village in its busy autumn months.

In the early 1900s Lowestoft’s fishing village – known locally as The Grit – was the most easterly community in the country. It was home to 2,500 people, three schools, churches, shops and 13 pubs. By the 1960s the village had declined and autumn 1967 saw the demolition of many houses, pubs and streets to make way for a new industrial estate.

In its heyday, however, autumn was the liveliest time of year on The Grit. The village was buzzing with the herring fishing and its population doubled with the arrival of the Scots fisher girls and fishing fleets.

Autumn is also when the local children – who had spent the summer with the north beach as their playground – returned to one of the three schools in the village.

Dean Parkin – writer/narrator of the ‘Pearls from The Grit’ theatre show – mixes stories, photos, archive audio & video to create a unique and entertaining film picture show of autumn in the most easterly fishing village. It will be broadcast as a Facebook premiere at 7.30pm on September 17 and will available anytime until September 20.

Ivan Bunn at The Seagull Theatre – Lowestoft’s Lost or Forgotten Buildings

Seagull Theatre, Morton Road, Lowestoft, Suffolk, NR33 0JH

Ivan Bunn will look at over 60 buildings, during a 90 minute talk, that have now gone and are often forgotten about.

A chance to come sit in a theatre, be part of a socially distanced audience and listen to popular historian Ivan Bunn talk about the lost and often forgotten buildings of Old Lowestoft. Starts at 7.30pm on September 19-20. Tickets are free but do need to be booked online to ensure a place.

All current COVID regulations will have to be adhered to. The Seagull is Lowestoft’s community theatre and a wonderful historical building in its own right.

Boxted Airfield Museum

Langham Lane, Langham, Colchester, Essex, CO4 5NW

See how a Second World War airfield affected a small village, how the arrival of 3000 military personnel and 100 aircraft from 386 Bomb Group, 354 Fighter Group, 56th Fighter Group, 5th Emergency Rescue Squadron and squadrons of the RAF changed the area.

The newly opened third exhibition hall houses the largest collection of B26 Marauder aircraft artefacts in the UK including large section of fuselage. Hundreds of these aircraft flew over Essex in WW2 and the museum has the only surviving example in the UK.

Opening Times: September 12-13 noon-4pm No booking required

Colchester’s Street of Tombs Exhibition

Roman Circus Visitor Centre, Roman Circus Walk, Colchester, Essex, CO2 7GZ

Learn about the current excavations at the front of the Essex County Hospital which is an area once crossed by this remarkable and largely under-appreciated Roman street. See how the Roman town model is progressing and meet a new charioteer.

Excavations and discoveries in the immediate area over the last 200 years are beginning to provide a clearer picture of what must have been the most prestigious burial area in Roman Colchester. Here, lining the main route in and out of the Roman town, were buried many of the wealthiest and no doubt most influential citizens, some made conspicuous in death by the monuments erected in their honour. A most interesting possibility is the site of a temple to the Egyptian goddess Isis.

You’ll need to visit the exhibition to find out more.... and to complete your visit why not join our friendly and knowledgeable guides at the chariot-racing arena’s starting gates to find out about Britannia’s only known Roman Circus, the chaos and the crashes.

Opening Times: September 12-13; hourly from 10am to 3pm

Booking online is essential and as tickets are limited, please cancel if you cannot attend.


Several short films have been specially made on local buildings and their stories such as Colchester Castle, Holy Trinity Church, the Roman Theatre, St John’s Abbey Gatehouse and St Mary’s, Wivenhoe. In addition, there are virtual tours of Gosbecks Archaeological Park, Roman Colchester, the Civil War Siege and the town’s Roman Wall.

Only a very small number of venues have been able to open their doors in line with Government guidance.

Get involved in this year’s celebrations and lend your support to this fantastic national celebration. Head to www.visitcolchester.com/HODS20 to see which venues are open, find out details of virtual guided open-air tours around Colchester, and watch a number of videos exploring Colchester’s rich and varied heritage.

Colchester Castle will be supporting this year’s festival by offering all participants 25% off Castle entry. To claim the discount simply screenshot the online voucher and present it when you visit the Castle or quote the discount code over the phone to claim the discount.


Churches across Suffolk and Essex are cared for by The Churches Conservation Trust, the national charity protecting historic churches at risk. Free audio guides have been added to the website this year, which can be downloaded before your visit. Find out more about the work of the trust online.

Opening Times: from Friday September 11 to Sunday September 20: 10-4pm.

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