Heritage open days

Caroline Cassidy

Heritage Open Days is a celebration of the vast range of England's architecture and culture. It's a national weekend of property openings that will be offering free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or charge for admission. Each year for four days in September, buildings of every age, style and function will open their doors to the masses. From castles to cosy cottages this is a once a year chance to discover all kinds of architectural treasures. Enjoy a property near you from September 9th to the 12th 2010.

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These open days are organised by volunteers, often property owners or managers, conservation officers, company directors, parishioners, tourism managers and education officers, in fact, anyone who cares about the environment they live in make Heritage Open Days happen. Heritage Open Days is the biggest and most popular voluntary cultural event in England. In 2009 the event attracted around one million visitors.

The public will have a unique opportunity to explore and enjoy these sometimes hidden and curious places in English cities, towns and villages. The range of attractions is immense from Medieval cottages, Tudor buildings, Gothic temples, Georgian houses, Victorian factories even Second World War defences and Art Deco cinemas. It's not all about the distant past either. Why not take yourself off to a Modernist masterpiece or 21st century eco-home.

Heritage Open Days was established back in 1994 as England's contribution to the European Heritage Days. This massive event enjoys the participation of 49 countries. In the UK there are four other schemes that open up places in September: Open House London, Doors Open Days in Scotland, Open Doors Days in Wales and European Heritage Days in Northern Ireland.

English heritage hopes this is a chance to explore not just the better known country houses but the history and culture of everything from Buddhist temples, Masonic lodges to the more humble pubs and factories.

Amongst the highlights confirmed for 2010 are the 18th century ironstone Gothic Temple at Stowe in Buckinghamshire and the former home of Augustus Pugin, designer of the House of Commons.

There will be houses with literary connections including the former home of Jane Austen's brother, at Chawton House in Hampshire and the Elizabethan North Lees Hall in the Peak District National Park, the inspiration for Charlotte Bronte's description of Mr Rochester's House, Thornfield Hall in Jane Eyre.

In the North of England you can glimpse some fantastic Victorian theatres that will open their doors for special backstage tours at The Journal Tyne Theatre, The Theatre Royal in Newcastle upon Tyne and Leeds' Grand Theatre and Opera House.