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Heritage sites open their doors in Dudley

By Tom Oakley | Dudley | Dudley entertainment | Published:

Some of the oldest and most important buildings in Dudley opened their doors to the public this weekend.

To mark Heritage Open Day, which celebrates architecture and culture across the country, six heritage buildings in the Black Country town threw open their doors on Saturday.

Visitors got to discover some of the hidden gems across the town, which are not usually accessible to the public on a day-to-day basis.

Among them were the Unitarian Old Meeting House in Wolverhampton Street – one of the oldest buildings in Dudley.

Dating back to 1717, the Grade II listed building is also the oldest building of worship in the borough and dozens turned out to see what was inside.

Sandy Ellis, who is clerk to the trustees of the Old Meeting House, where the Black Country Unitarians worship, was delighted to open the doors of the building to the public.

"It's a lovely building and nice to see far more use being made of it," he said. "Far too many walk past without seeing it. We're delighted to be able to open it to the public.

"There is a security gate on the front because the yard became a habit of needles and drugs so it's quite hidden.

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"Too many people in Dudley probably don't know the chapel exists and these days offers a wonderful opportunity for people to come inside.

"Buildings like this are the heritage and history of Dudley. Citizens in the town paid for and build this chapel and have maintained it for nearly 300 years."

Heritage Open Days is a scheme that encourages owners of historically important buildings to open them free of charge to the public.

Other heritage buildings which opened to the public in Dudley included the 1920s-built Grade II listed Coroner’s Court, which retains its original fittings and furnishings.

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People can also saw the famous Hans Feibusch mural, together with the rarely seen preliminary sketches, at the Town Hall.

Meanwhile, visitors were able to sit in the council chamber where important decisions are made, and had a rare behind the scenes peek at the ancient ‘Top’ and ‘Bottom’ churches, where tours took place throughout the day.

Emma Pardoe, Dudley Townscape Heritage project manager, who helped organise the Heritage Open Day in the town, added: "Last time we just opened the Coroner's Court, which was a great success. But this year we wanted to open a few more in Dudley.

"There's some very significant architecture and they're all listed buildings that we opened. They are the hidden gems of Dudley that people don't know about. People walk past on a daily basis and just don't know they even exist! People really appreciate looking behind the doors and seeing what's there."

Tom Oakley

By Tom Oakley
Trainee Multi-Media Journalist

Express & Star reporter responsible for covering Walsall and Staffordshire. Got a story? Email tom.oakley@expressandstar.co.uk or call 01902 319482.

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