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Explore History with Heritage Open Days

See hidden places and try out new experiences for free this September in Bury St Edmunds and Beyond as part of Heritage Open Days!

Every September thousands of volunteers across England organise events to celebrate our fantastic history and culture in the UK as part of Heritage Open Days. 

It's your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – all of which are FREE to explore.

Here's some of the fantastic places you can explore for free in Bury St Edmunds and Beyond from September 10-19!

Ancient Library Tour at St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Learn more about St Edmundsbury Cathedral's Ancient Library and the manuscripts in the Cathedral’s collection.

Enjoy a free 30-minute tour in the Ancient Library where you will be able to see some of the books in the collection and learn a little more about them with the Cathedral's Library Guides. 

The Ancient Library 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.

Book your free tour at https://stedscathedral.org/whats-on

Explore National Trust Ickworth 

With over 1800 acres of parkland, gardens and brand new all-weather path to enjoy, Ickworth is the perfect place to get back to nature. Discover formal gardens, pleasure grounds, rolling Suffolk landscape and woodlands to explore.

Open daily from 9am-5pm, National Trust Ickworth has 1800 acres of parkland to explore - on wheels or foot, there are a number of walks and trails to explore. Take a stroll around the more formal, pleasure grounds such as the Italianate Garden, one of the earliest examples of an Italianate garden in the country, which hides a rather contrasting Victorian-style Stumpery - the perfect place for children to explore and find the hidden dragon.

Head into the Rotunda (11am-last entry 3pm) and see Ickworth's treasures in a new light with our exhibition. The Rotunda hosts some of the finest examples of portraiture artists, including Titian and Vigee le Brun. Then stop off at one of our cafés to get a bite to eat for lunch and treat yourself to a gift in one of our shops.

As part of Heritage Open Days - specific entry times will be FREE Entry for National Trust Ickworth Heritage Open Days from September 10-19.

Visit https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/ickworth to find out more about National Trust Ickworth.


Enjoy a Tour of Bury St Edmunds Guildhall

Bury St Edmunds Guildhall has been at the heart of the community for nearly 1000 years and has played host to some incredible events. Explore surprising stories of kidnappings, court-room dramas, and wartime heroes, with special tours and free entry

From imprisoning kidnapped monks to housing Cromwell’s soldiers, hosting abolitionist meetings to WWII secret military operations, the Guildhall has seen plenty of drama over the centuries. During Heritage Open Days you can explore the story of this incredible building and the people of Bury St Edmunds throughout a millennium of change.

Indoor and outdoor tours will be available for Heritage Open Days on September 12 and 19 from 10am to 4pm, covering a range of topics, including the history of the ingredients that shaped our daily dining habits, and the secrets properties of plants in our Sensory Garden.

You will also have free entry to a truly unique local feature - the Guildhall ROC Operations Room - the last of its kind left in the country. The Ops Room was the wartime home of 14 Group Royal Observer Corps (ROC) whose incredible efforts helped win the Battle of Britain. Visit the Guildhall during Heritage Open Days to explore the untold stories of these everyday heroes.

To book your free entry and tour email learning@burystedmundsguildhall.org.uk.

For more information on Bury St Edmunds Guildhall visit https://burystedmundsguildhall.org.uk/


A Stroll Down Abbeygate Street

Enjoy a short stroll down Bury St Edmunds best known street with Bury St Edmunds Tour Guides, highlighting the personalities and changes to the street over the last century. Of special appeal to those who may not normally follow such walks.

An opportunity for a leisurely stroll and to learn how change has affected Bury St Edmunds best known street over the past century. Find out about personalities, past use of some premises, architectural appearance and customs. 

This will especially appeal to those who may not normally undertake a guided tour because of physical or mental challenges or disability, including cognitive impairment. Participants own reminiscences are welcome and will add to this pleasurable event.

The tour is FREE as part of Heritage Open Days! Pre-booking essential. Visit https://www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on to book.


Free Entry at the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket

You can enjoy free entry at the National Horse Racing Museum in Newmarket from September 14 - 17, as part of Heritage Open Days!

The museum is a 5-acre indoor/outdoor site in the heart of Newmarket. It comprises three complementary attractions, plus you'll have the chance to meet former racehorses and take a ride on the racehorse simulator!

The museum tells the story of horseracing from its earliest origins to the world-wide phenomenon it is today. This is explored through works of art, silver, bronzes, and artefacts including racing silks worn by famous jockeys Lester Piggott and Frankie Dettori. Using the latest interactive and audio-visual displays, the museum also takes a different look at the sport, examining the physical attributes of elite horses and the importance of the thoroughbred pedigree. Your visit will not be complete without riding our famous racehorse simulator in the King’s Yard Galleries.

Palace House occupies the last remaining part of King Charles II’s sporting palace and racing stables, providing a beautiful attraction which is steeped in history. Housing paintings by George Stubbs and Sir Alfred Munnings which jostle for position with important works showcasing some of the finest sporting art from around the UK.

Meet former racehorses and find out how they are retrained as our friendly staff walk and talk you through their routine on the ‘Behind the Scenes’ tour which happens twice a day at 11am and 2.30pm. There is a fabulous restaurant and bakery on site, as well as a gift shop and book store. Visits can take from 3 hours to a full day!

Book on the day at https://www.nhrm.co.uk/


A Walk Along Two Rare Chalk Streams

An explanatory walk along two beautiful and rare town centre chalk streams in Bury St Edmunds lasting 1.5 hrs guided by volunteers from the Bury Water Meadows Group on September 16 and 19.

The River Lark and its tributary the Linnet are amongst a small number of chalk streams in the world and we will explore their unique ecology. They were important in the siting and development of Bury St Edmunds and we will consider their influence on this important historical town.

To book your FREE walk visit https://www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on


Rede Hall Farm Park Tour - See Suffolk Horses

As part of Heritage Open Days, enjoy a tour around Rede Hall Farm Park with an informative talk on the animals and birdlife.

As well as the tour and talk, view the different harnesses and farm vehicles in the coach house. Farm birds including ducks and geese will be roaming freely.

Heritage Open Days is the ONLY time of year Rede Hall Farm Park in Chedburgh is open to the public!

Free Tours on September 10 and 14 from 10am to 12pm.

Book your FREE tour at https://www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on


Abbeygate Cinema - A Walk Through Cinema History

History display boards and lots of photos and memorabilia will be on display at the unique boutique Abbeygate Cinema which nestles in the historic sector of Bury St Edmunds from September 10-19.

Detailing the cinema’s unique history and the part it has played in the market town of Bury St Edmunds, visitors will be able to find out about the history of cinema in Bury St Edmunds and more specifically the history of Abbeygate Cinema which has been a picturehouse since the 1920s.

You will be able to view some fabulous architecture lovingly restored and a selection of specific time slots will be available during the event when visitors will be able to meet local cinema legend, Pat Church, who will host some sessions and answer questions. Having worked at the cinema for more than 55 years, Pat knows the fabric of the building like no other and has many a story to tell.

Open daily from 10am to 4pm.

Booking is advised via the Abbeygate Cinema website https://www.abbeygatecinema.co.uk/ or call 01284 754477.


St Edmund's Catholic Church & Chapel

One of the oldest Catholic Chapels in England and the Church subsequently built in 1837 in Greek Revival style.

Guided tours and exhibitions of memorabilia with reference to extraordinary women who have influenced local history.

In 1791 when the public profession of Catholicism was still illegal, a Catholic Chapel was constructed out of public view. As the congregation grew in size the adjoining Church was built in 1837.

Both buildings remain to serve the needs of Catholics but are rich in their history and heritage and open to everyone. Sympathetically renovated in recent years, they retain their former character and beauty.

The Open Days will provide the opportunity to view photographs and memorabilia and will feature the lives of extraordinary women who have etched their place in local Catholic history. Guided tours will be offered to visitors

Open Friday 10 & 17 September: 11am-4pm and Saturday 11 September: 11am-3.30pm.

No booking required. For more information on the church and chapel visit http://www.stedmundkm.org.uk/.


A Stroll Around Historic Lavenham

A full guided walk of the village of Lavenham revealing its history.

The tour begins at the Swan at Lavenham Hotel & Spa where you will learn about the founding of the village. You'll then learn about the wool trade, and decline, before beginning your walk, taking in the Wool Hall, Guildhall, Little Hall and Market place, Molet House, Shilling Street, Water Street, the old Grammar School and De Vere House… stories include the Harry Potter connections, the wool trade, John Constable, architecture and social history.

Meeting point is outside the High Street entrance to the Swan Hotel, Lavenham. Free parking available throughout the village.

Tours take place from Friday 10 September to Monday 13 September, 2pm-3.30pm on Friday and Sunday, 11am-12.30pm on Saturday and Monday.

This event is free as it is part of Heritage Open Days! Please book at https://www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on or call 01284 758000.


Clare Ancient House

Clare Ancient House Museum is a Grade I listed medieval building, timber-framed with exquisite 17th century pargeting.

It presents historic artefacts and photographs about the history of Clare.

The Museum chronicles the fortunes of a town important since the Norman Conquest and home of the great de Clare family. 

Later the wool and cloth trade was important. Links with Clare Castle Country Park are made through the Clare Town Trail by information posts, markers at important buildings and an informative booklet.

Visit the Museum for free in half hour time slots available on September 11 and 12 between 11am-5pm. Booking: Essential by emailing info@clare-ancient-house-museum.co.uk. To find out more about the Museum visit https://www.clare-ancient-house-museum.co.uk/.


Tour the Norman Tower

A rare opportunity to tour the Norman Tower which includes 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. It 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.

A peal of 12 bells are located in the Norman Tower. The original ten bells were cast in 1785 by Thomas Osborn of Downham Market. In 1973 the bells were rehung in an iron frame at a lower level in the tower. Following a public appeal, a further two bells were added at Easter 2012. A thirteenth bell was added in 2013 which allows beginners to practice with a full octave, without having to use the three heaviest bells.

The bells are rung on Sundays before the morning and evening services, and also for weddings and other special occasions.

This 45 minute tour is free but booking is essential at https://www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on. Please Note, access is via three sets of steps - this includes a spiral staircase. Steps are worn and uneven, and sensible shoes must be worn. The visit does not include going to the top of the Tower. All children must be accompanied by a responsible adult and the tour is not suitable for children under the age of 8.


Behind The Scenes Tour of The Apex

A rare opportunity to tour behind the scenes of the award-winning The Apex on September 13 at 11am and 2pm.

The tour, which is approximately 60 minutes long, will be led by The Apex’s own events and programming manager, Nick Wells.

Some of the biggest stars of music and entertainment have performed on The Apex stage, since it opened. In this guided tour, you will get to visit areas not usually open to the general public, including the stage and dressings rooms, technical areas, offices and kitchens.

The tour is free of charge but booking is essential at https://www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on or call 01284 758000.


Bury St Edmunds Through Time Revisited

An illustrated talk at the United Reformed Church by local heritage guide, Martyn Taylor, showing how Bury St Edmunds has physically changed over the last 100 years.

Martyn Taylor, well known as a local author on many aspects of our local history, will be utilising the amazing postcard collection of the late Joe Wakerley to help illustrate the many changes to the face of Bury St Edmunds over the last 100 years.

Be entertained for an hour and see how much in the town from the early 1900s is still recognisable today, and what affect modern twentieth century life has had on our historical landmarks.

The talk takes place on September 18 from 10.30am to 11.30am. 

Tickets are free but booking is essential by emailing events@burysociety.com.


Guided Walk of Historic Clare

A 90-minute guided walk which takes the visitor around Clare, the smallest town in Suffolk!

Although Clare’s history stretches back into early England, the remains of a Norman castle dominates the town, underlining the importance of Clare in the history of the area.

Later in its history the castle and Clare manor became part of extensive royal lands and as a result many of Clare’s buildings have important stories to tell - indeed, over 130 are listed and range from timber framed medieval structures through grand Georgian and Regency facades.

Hear about the people behind these buildings and later how the coming of the railway changed the town. You will also walk through the tranquil grounds of the still active priory and reflect on its importance in the nation’s history, finishing in the magnificent Clare Castle Country Park.

Tours on September 19 are at 10.30am and 2pm. Meet at the Old Goods Shed in Clare Country Park, adjacent to the car park.

The tour is free but booking is essential at https://www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk/whats-on or call 01284 758000.


For more information on Heritage Open Days visit https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/.

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