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The best Heritage Open Days in Yorkshire in September

The chapel at Giggleswick School. (c) B.P.M Harris Photography
The chapel at Giggleswick School. (c) B.P.M Harris Photography

Every year in September, people and places across the country throw open their doors to celebrate their community and history for Heritage Open Days − and it’s all free. Here are some weird and wonderful highlights to discover on your doorstep

Chalk Tower, Flamborough

Built more than three centuries ago in 1674, few have had chance to venture inside Chalk Tower. Originally constructed as an early lighthouse, with passing ships asked to pay a voluntary tax based on their cargo weight to fund the beacon fires, the venture became short-lived after mariners refused to pay and the builders went bankrupt. The tower came to life again in 1792 when semaphore telegraphy was devised to transmit coded messages using coloured flags. It was also brought into active service during the Second World War. Since 1952 the tower has been Grade II listed and Friends of the Chalk Tower will be welcoming visitors to the ground floor area.

Chalk Tower, Lighthouse Road, Flamborough, Bridlington, East Riding of Yorkshire, YO15 1AN

H.M. Prison Hull

Hopefully the closest you’ll ever come to staying at his majesty’s pleasure, the Behind These Walls exhibition hosted within H.M. Prison Hull, is a rare insight into the last 150 years of the prison − which opened in 1870 − and other custodial establishments across the city. One such story is that of Ethel Major, the last person and only woman to be executed at Hull in 1934, convicted of the murder of her husband. Brought to life through rarely seen photos and other artefacts, this is a fabulous opportunity to take a peak behind its infamous walls. For security reasons, entry is restricted to the exhibition only.

Hedon Road, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, HU9 5LS

Belltower Tours at St Wilfrid’s Harrogate

If you’ve ever marvelled at Harrogate's only Grade I listed building and largest parish church (also one of the largest in England), and wondered what the view from the top of its bell tower might be like… then this is your chance to find out. Designed in 1904 by the famous architect Temple Lushington Moore, the church tower’s 80 step climb will not only reward you with far reaching views from one of the highest vantage points in Harrogate, but for those with energy to spare, there is also the opportunity to have a go at ringing its bells.

St. Wilfrids Parish Church, Duchy Road, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2EY

Photographs from 40 years of being a steeplejack 1975-2016

A photographic exhibition with a difference from a man who spent his career scaling factory chimneys and some of the tallest structures across Britain and Europe to make vital repairs. On display for the first time is former steeplejack, Jack Howley’s personal photographs vividly charting the changing nature of his profession from 1975 to 2016. Jack, originally from Dewsbury, will also be on hand to explain what life was like as an 'old school' steeplejack, including how he used to put up and secure his Yorkshire Ladders, Lancashire Ladders and Aluminium Skids!

White Swan Inn, 1 Church Hill, Hunmanby, North Yorkshire, YO14 0JU

Clifton Castle tour

Built in 1802, Grade II listed Clifton Castle is a late Georgian house designed by John Foss, built on the site of a former 14th century castle. With wonderful views over lower Wensleydale towards Masham, its pleasure grounds were laid out with huts and follies leading down to and along the River Ure. Open on September 8 only, this is a rare opportunity to enter the inside of the house free of charge and view the many rare paintings − by Lely, Kneller, Van Dyck and Van de Velde − silver, porcelain and French and English furniture collected mainly by Wills Hill, 1st Marquess of Downshire.

Clifton Castle Farms Office, Clifton Castle, Clifton, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 4AB

In the gardens

Delve into the life and times of prolific gardener Robert Marnock at Sheffield Botanic Gardens. As well as being the designer and curator of the botanical gardens in Sheffield and London, Marnock undertook a substantial number of private commissions across the country, plus sites in Italy and Belgium. He had a significant impact on the landscape of Sheffield and elsewhere. September 9/10.

Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Thompson Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S10 2LN

Giggleswick School Chapel

With its impressive copper dome and stunning interior, Giggleswick School Chapel designed by T.G Jackson, a leading architect of the time, is an imposing landmark that is rarely open to the public. Originally gifted to the school by the famous philanthropist Walter Morrison of Malham, it was built in 1897 to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. During the chapel’s open days there will be musical performances from members of the school community including performances on the famous Henry Willis organ. On Sunday September 17 there will also be a chapel service to which all visitors are welcome.

Giggleswick School, Giggleswick, Settle, North Yorkshire, BD24 0DE

Barnsley Main Colliery and Hemingfield Colliery

Just a short drive from one another, these two South Yorkshire collieries offer a fascinating insight into one of the county’s biggest former industries and employers. Barnsley Main is the site of the 1866 Oaks Disaster, England's worst mining tragedy and on 11 September there is a unique opportunity to look around the grounds under the guidance of local historian, Joshua Daniels.

Hemingfield Colliery, a Victorian colliery, was once part of Earl Fitzwilliam's Elsecar Collieries. Friends of Hemingfield Colliery will be on hand to provide regular guided tours showcasing its coal working, railway, canal history and connections to Elsecar, Wentworth and the wider world.

Barnsley Main Colliery, Oaks Lane , Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S71 1HT

Hemingfield Colliery, Hemingfield, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S73 0NX

A Short History of Professional Theatre in Sheffield

Walk around the city centre and discover under the expert guidance of former manager of Sheffield Theatres, Chris Reece, the history and stories of the city’s current and former theatres and concert halls. The two mile guided walk will unpack tales from the days of travelling players through to today’s theatre practices via Georgian, Victorian, Repertory and Commercial Touring Theatre. Art, religion, the decline and fall of different styles of theatre and struggles against fire, the blitz, town planners and rival forms of entertainment have all played a part in creating the thriving theatrical scene Sheffield is renowned for today.

The Lyceum Theatre, Tudor Square, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 2LA

Bradford City Hall 150th Anniversary - Open Weekend

Just to whet your whistle ahead of Bradford 2025 City of Culture, why not celebrate the 150th anniversary of the city’s magnificent Grade 1 listed City Hall? Regular tours across two dedicated days will uncover the building’s most prestigious spaces including the grand staircase, Council Chamber, Banqueting Suite and Lord Mayor’s Room – many of which have featured as key locations in TV and film. There will also be a display of vehicles by the Jowett Car Club – the owners club for former local car manufacturer Jowett Cars Ltd – outside its main entrance in Centenary Square.

Bradford City Hall, Centenary Square, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 1HY

Retail in Focus

A chance to see what life was like for those who lived and worked in Greenwoods - Dewsbury’s oldest shop, which has continuously traded since 1860 to the present day. Shop memorabilia, including the famous counter top ‘Bolenium Bill’, artefacts, fittings, cabinetry, biographies and pictures bring to life the living ‘time capsule’ that is John Greenwood Ltd, purveyors of jewellery, workwear and outdoor clothing.

Plus, the M&S archive at the University of Leeds has a special for ‘one day only’ new exhibition open to the public on Saturday 9 September featuring interactive features for all ages along with its 1920s Penny Bazaar shop.

John Greenwood Clothing & Jewellery, 3 Church Street, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, WF13 1JJ

M&S Archive, Michael Marks Building, University of Leeds, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS2 9LP

The Birchcliffe Centre - Life through the Lens: The Portrait Photography of Alice Longstaff

A chance to discover the never-seen-before portrait collection of the iconic Hebden Bridge photographer, Alice Longstaff who captured the spirit of her community across a 70-year career. Whether in her studio, a subject's home, or out and about in the town, Longstaff had an incredible talent for putting people at ease. This skill allowed her to create photographs full of personality and charm, portraying the rich variety of life in Hebden Bridge from 1921 to 1992. Visitors will also have the chance to explore the magnificent Birchcliffe Centre, a former Baptist Chapel which is now owned and operated by the charity, Pennine Heritage.

Pennine Heritage, Birchcliffe Centre, Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 8DG


This specially commissioned performance by Huddersfield based Chol theatre and arts company, explores the cultural phenomenon of 'Daytimers' − the underground Bhangra scene of the 1990s and 2000's where young people hung out and danced in secret. This family-friendly show devised with input from the people and communities of Huddersfield who were part of this secret Bhangra scene, celebrates the wider nationwide cultural movement of the late twentieth century that Huddersfield was a key part of. Places are limited for this one-day special event taking place Saturday September 16.

Northern Quarter, 28 - 30 Wood Street, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, HD1 1DU

Creating magnificent landscapes: Humphry Repton’s commissions in Leeds

A unique opportunity for non-golfers to see the work of Humphry Repton, regarded as the last great English landscape designer of the eighteenth century and successor to Capability Brown. Gotts Park Mansion, now the clubhouse of Gotts Park Golf Club was once the home of Benjamin Gott, owner of Armley Mills and a leading figure in the Industrial Revolution. After Gott bought the house in 1812, he commissioned Humphry Repton to remodel it, a task undertaken by Robert Smirke, architect of the British Museum, who transformed it into the first Greek Revival house to be built in West Yorkshire. Guided tours will include the Mansion House and stunning Humphry Repton designed parkland.

The Mansion House, Gotts Park Golf Club, Armley Ridge Road, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS12 2QX

Dive into Bramley Baths

At the heart of its community since 1904, Bramley Baths is the last remaining Edwardian bath house in Leeds. Built to improve public health and wellbeing in response to the outbreak of cholera, local residents came to wash, swim and use the Russian Steam Baths – fashionable with the wealthier Edwardians. Originally the Globe Foundry, the iconic chimney built from Kirkstall bricks, still towers over the baths today. With its heritage pool, Russian Steam Room, original stained glass windows and beautiful oak reception box, Bramley Baths rich history from community baths, to dance hall and most latterly as a not for profit community enterprise is a gem to explore.

Broad Lane, Bramley, Leeds, West Yorkshire, LS13 3DF

Free Admission to Shibden Hall

Despite being instantly recognisable as the home of Sally Wainwright’s Gentleman Jack which takes the life story of noted diarist Anne Lister (1791 - 1840) as its inspiration, the house and estate actually have a richer history, dating back 500 years. A number of important families associated with Halifax have called Shibden their home, from the first identified landowner, William Oates in 1420, to its most famous resident Anne Lister, through to its last resident John Lister, who lived there until it became a museum in 1934. This unique opportunity to explore the house and estate for free is available 9 and 10 September. Prebooking essential.

Shibden Hall, Lister's Road, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX3 6XG

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