On September's heritage free-for-all

September is the month of the national Heritage Open Days festival (HODs). As most of you will know, this event is aimed at opening up historic buildings and sites for free, especially places that are normally closed to the general public.  But I hadn’t realised until this year that the origins of the festival are European. The idea was established in 1991 when the Council of Europe and the European Commission set up European Heritage Days to raise appreciation for Europe’s rich and diverse cultural assets and their need for care and protection.

Although access to Trust sites is free all year round, the festival offers the opportunity for organisations like us to put on something special for the event to entice new audiences. The festival is co-ordinated nationally by the National Trust, and works with local partners such as The Forum in Norwich and the tourism team at Gt Yarmouth Borough Council. Together they provide national, regional and local publicity for all organisations that participate, with the potential to reach a wide and diverse audience.

This year for the first time, HODs events were held at three of our sites over the weekend of Sept 10-11th, with the support of volunteers. The Friends of St Benet’s Abbey ran extra guided tours at the Abbey, and Caistor Roman Project volunteers ran three guided tours at the Town. Both events were attended by around forty people.

At Burgh Castle Fort we marked the end of the Heritage Lottery funded ‘Life outside the walls’ project with a big event which included ‘Comitatus’ Roman cavalry demonstrations, a ‘live’ test pit, storytelling, guided tours, new exhibitions and displays in the church (and a wedding half way through the day though I can’t take credit for that), stalls and refreshments in the village hall, and an oral history ‘listening post’. Over 300 attended, despite squally showers, and visitors were really interested in what we had been doing during the project, and meeting the people involved.

Such events are mutually beneficial for organisers and visitors – for me it was uplifting to meet so many people who loved the site and were supportive of the Trust’s work.

News in brief

  • Saturday 15 October: Norfolk Archaeological Trust outing 9.30 – 17.30. £15. We have a handful of seats left for this coach trip which non-members might like to take up. We will visit Burnham Norton Friary to see the current repairs to the precinct walls; Bloodgate Hill Fort, South Creake; Warham Camp; and Binham Priory, with Stephen Heywood and Ken Penn as guides. To book a seat please contact norfolk.archaeological@gmail.com

  • Tuesday 4 October 2016, 6:30pm UEA Inaugural Lectures: ‘The Globalised World of the Middle Ages: An Archaeologist's View’. Prof Anne Haour, Sainsbury Research Unit at  Julian Study Centre lecture theatre. All are free to attend and there’s a chance to network afterwards at a free drinks reception.
  • Saturday October 15 NAHRG Lecture Programme ‘A Million Years of Aylsham Archaeology’ Claire Bradshaw (Community Archaeologist, Norfolk Historic Environment Service). Meetings take place at the UEA (Room Arts 01.02) at 2.30 pm. Non-members are welcome to try a couple of meetings before joining (no charge)

  • Saturday 22nd October 6pm: 'Textile Manufacturing in and around Georgian Colegate’. Dr Michael Nix, formerly Research Manager Textiles and Technology, Glasgow Museums. St George’s Colegate, Norwich. Lecture followed by drinks. For further details please email Catherine Waddams c.waddams@uea.ac.uk.