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Heritage Open Days 2018: Celebrate culture and history for free

By Heather Large | Attractions | Published: | Last Updated:

Much-loved landmarks and historical attractions will be welcoming visitors free of charge as part of the Heritage Open Days festival.

There will be live entertainment at Wightwick Manor

For the first time in its 24-year history England’s largest celebration of culture and history will take place over two consecutive weekends.

And there are plenty of events being held across the Black Country and Staffordshire between September 6 and 9 and between September 13 and 16.

Every year the festival brings together more than 2,500 organisations, 5,000 events and 40,000 volunteers.

In recognition of the centenary of the Universal Suffrage Act, there will also be celebrations and activities taking place on the theme of Extraordinary Women, focusing on both well-known and less celebrated women.

They include an outdoor performance, written by Sam Kick, based on the words of Emmeline Pankhurst in her autobiography Suffragette My Own Story at Wightwick Manor in Wolverhampton.

Heritage Open Days patron Lloyd Grossman said: “Every year, Heritage Open Days becomes a more diverse and fascinating festival.

"It’s wonderful that we continue to celebrate all aspects of local heritage, with thousands of walks, talks, openings and events – all of them free.”

WOLVERHAMPTON

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There will be live entertainment at Wightwick Manor

A church with a stunning stained glass window by renowned designer John Piper is among the landmarks opening its doors in Wolverhampton.

St Andrew’s Church in Whitmore Reans was built in the 1960s to a striking modern design by Richard Twentyman.

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The abstract window was made by Patrick Reyntiens.

The church will be open for visitors between 10am and 6pm on Friday, September 7.

Historical re-enactors will be bringing the past to life at Moseley Old Hall.

Visitors are invited to join staff and volunteers at the National Trust attraction on the anniversary of Charles II’s arrival at the house and meet some of the key characters involved in his escape.

They can be found around the house and people can talk to them about the dramatic events of 1651.

Parliamentarian soldiers and camp followers from Colonel John Pickering’s Regiment of Foote will also be around, demonstrating musketry and pike drill.

Visitors will get an insight into what it feels like to be in fear for your life and what it takes to offer shelter to a hunted man.

The event will run from 10am until 5pm on Saturday, September 8.

There will be live entertainment at Wightwick Manor on Saturday, September 15 when visitors can find out more about the lives and efforts of efforts of Millicent Fawcett and the Suffragists and Emmeline Pankhurst and the Suffragettes.

Outside the manor there will be Suffragette marches, with Pankhurst on trial on the South Terrace. There will be performances at 11:30am and 2pm.

On the same day St Peter and St Paul Church, a historic church containing the earliest remaining post-Reformation public urban chapel for Catholics, will be open for visits. It will be open between 11am and 3pm on the Saturday.

DUDLEY

Among the churches welcoming visitors will be St Edmund, King and Martyr

Churches and civic buildings are among those throwing open their doors across Dudley.

Visitors will have access to Dudley Town Hall, which is listed Grade II* and forms part of a complex of civic buildings designed by the architects Harvey and Wicks between 1924 and 1928.

It will be open from 10am until 4pm on Saturday, September 8.

The Coroner’s Court will welcome visitors at the same time and the Council Chamber between 11am and 3pm

Also opening its doors in the town centre on the same day will be St Edmund, King and Martyr and St Thomas and St Luke (Top Church). Both are open from 10am to 4pm

On Saturday, September 15, join curators in a behind the scenes tour of the Black Country Living Museum stores.

Visitors will discover the stories that lie behind some of the 80,000 objects in its care and how the museum looks after its large social history and industrial collection. The tours will run at noon and 2pm.

In Stourbridge the Glasshouse Arts Centre will be open between 10am and 3pm on Saturday,September 15.

One of the town’s oldest buildings, Stourbridge Quaker Meeting House, will welcome visitors between 11am and 3.30pm on Saturday, September 8 and Sunday, September 9.

SANDWELL

Work by Beano and Dandy cartoonist Charlie Grigg will be on display in Wednesbury

An exhibition of work by cartoonist Charlie Grigg who drew for the Beano and the Dandy will be on display at Wednesbury Museum and Art Gallery.

There will also be cartoon and caricature workshops and activities between 11.30am and 3.30pm on Thursday, September 6; between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday, September 8; between 11:30am and 3:30pm on Thursday, September 13 and between 2pm and 4pm on Saturday, September 15.

The life of West Bromwich explorer Helen Caddick will be on show at Oak House Museum. She travelled around the world in the late 1800s and early 1900s and was insturmental in setting up the Oak House as a museum in the 1890s when the house opened full of curios and stuffed animals. Visitors can see some of the items she brought back from around the world. The event will run from 2pm to 5pm on Thursday, September 6 and Thursday, September 13.

While on Sunday, September 9 and Sunday, September 16, the museum will be celebrating the achievements of women through the ages and see demonstrations from the Iron Age, 17th century and Victorian England. The event will run from 2pm until 5pm.

There will also be two events to get involved in at West Bromwich’s Manor House Museum. A family fun day will take place on Sunday, September 9, between 11am and 3pm, offering youngster the chance to channel their inner knight or maiden with lessons in chivalry, dance, cooking and weaponry

The Buckingham’s Retinue at the Manor House

While on Saturday, September 15 and Sunday, September 16, The Manor House opens its grounds to Buckinghams Retinue and they take visitors back to the time of the Wars of the Roses with their medieval encampment. The event will run from 11am until 3pm.

The childhood home of Francis Asbury, first Methodist Bishop of the USA will also be welcoming visitors. They can travel back to the mid-18th century at Bishop Asbury Cottage and discover the tiny cottage where he grew up and how his early years in the Midlands shaped his life and work.

A glimpse inside Galton Valley Pumping Station in Smethwick is on offer between 10am and 3pm on Saturday, September 8 and Saturday, September 15.

The Heritage Centre in Victoria Park, Smethwick will have displays and exhibitions featuring the town’s rich past. It will be open between 11am and 3pm from Thursday, September 6 to Sunday, September 9. On the Saturday and Sunday, visitors will have access to the historic part of the adjacent Council House, which is not normally open to the pub.

WALSALL

There will be the chance to see inside a landmark church as part of the heritage festival.

Visitors to St Matthew’s Parish Church can marvel at the medieval crypt, 15th century chancel, 15th century font, 19th century nave and ceiling and the beautiful stained glass.

The church will be open to visitors between 6pm and 8.30pm on Friday, September 7 and between 10am to 3pm on Saturday, September 8. On the Friday, there will be guided tower visits to the ringing chamber to hear about the church bells, bell ringing, and also the tower clock. On the Saturday a special peal of the bells will be screened live to the nave.

People can also step back into Willenhall’s past by visiting The Locksmith’s House which has been left exactly as it would have been in Edwardian times. As part of the National Heritage Open Days it will be open for free for families to explore. Visitors can see what family life was like for the Willenhall lock makers and shop keepers, the Hodson family, who lived and worked in the house over a century ago.

It will be open between 11am and 4pm on Saturday, September 15.

Aldridge Transport Museum, which is run solely by volunteers, will welcome visitors from 10.30am to 4pm on Friday, September 14 and Saturday, September 15.

STAFFORDSHIRE

Explore Shugborough Estate

Shugborough Estate will allow visitors to take a fresh look at the influences Thomas Anson brought back from the continent in celebration of the European Year of Culture. The estate remained in the Anson family for three centuries.

Entrance to the National Trust attraction is free from 9am to 6pm on Saturday, September 8.

Throughout the four days of the festival there is the chance to wander around St Chad’s Church in Stafford, read about the world as it was at that time of its creation and meet guides with a wealth of knowledge.

In Stafford town centre people can visit the County Buildings from 10am until 4pm on Saturday, September 8 and William Salt Library from 10am until 2.30pm on Saturday, September 15.

There will also be bell-ringing at Stafford St Mary’s Collegiate Church between 12pm and 3pm on Saturday, September 8 and Saturday, September 15. People can ascend the spiral staircase to see the history and heritage of the 10 bells, watch ringing take place in the unique English style and try holding a bell rope.

Anyone interested in learning to ring will also have the chance to apply for a course in bell-ringing.

Also open will be Sandon Limekiln which dates back to the 1790s. Visitors can see the hidden facade and explore inside the kiln’s work space. It will be open from 12.30 until 4.30pm on Saturday, September 15 and Sunday, September 16.

Heather Large

By Heather Large
Special projects reporter - @HeatherL_star

Senior reporter and part of the Express & Star special projects team specialising in education and human interest features.

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