Discover more about Hertfordshire's wealth of fascinating places and spaces, with this year’s Heritage Open Days.

The September festival brings people together to celebrate heritage, community and history in England – and all for free. A wide range of organisers that usually charge for events, free sites that put on extra special events for the festival and places that aren't usually open to the public will take part again this year.

The event has captured imaginations for almost 30 years. Last year more than 2,150 organisers along with 43,500 volunteers ran nearly 5,000 events across the country, attracting one million visits. Around one-third of visitors had not visited a heritage site/event in the past year while eighty percent of people said their visit made them proud of their local area.

Heritage from historic houses to factories, museums to music halls, formal gardens to graveyards and places and spaces in between, will be opening their doors. The festival will also celebrate the stories and work of the experts and enthusiastic amateurs who add that something extra to places around the county. This year’s theme is Creativity Unwrapped so there’s a special emphasis on artists, makers and inventors.

Liam Montgomery, Heritage Open Days marketing and projects manager, says: ‘Whether it is art, music, writing, or another outlet, creativity moves us and shapes our history and culture. We’re excited to put the spotlight on the people and places who give England’s heritage the X-factor and inspire festival-goers to engage with thousands of years of creativity.’

It’s a chance to take a sneak peak of some of England’s hidden heritage and this year discover its colourful history of creativity. Here are a few of the open days, events and experiences being held around Hertfordshire.

Amersfort Hall, Arts and Craft house

Potten End, Berkhamsted

This fine Arts and Craft house and garden designed by Ernest Willmott has a garden planted by renowned plantswoman Gertrude Jekyll. The introductory talk and guided tour of the gardens gives visitors a rare opportunity to see Ernest Willmott's early 20th century design and garden layout, with its steps and terraces, a great deal of which remains intact; Both the house and garden were adapted to the surrounding landscape. Learn about the colour scheme which Gertrude Jekyll planned for the all-year round effect and see how the design blends into the surrounding countryside.

September 12: 10.30 and 1400

Booking required

BFI Film & Television Archive Berkhamsted

Are you a film buff? This is a rare chance to see the specialist skills, technology and vaults preserving the film and TV heritage of the nation in Berkhamsted. There will be talks by the curatorial team who make it a world-class archive, technical demonstrations of film preservation, exhibits and mini-tours of the huge film vaults storing the British Film Institutes national collection. The Hospice of St Francis will be providing refreshments so you can support a good cause at the same time.

September 17: 10.30-16.00

No booking required

Art of Berkhamsted: Now and then

This artistic meander around Berkhamsted with local artist Mary Casserley will point out views painted by artists over the years. Discover locations used by local artists as inspiration and see how the landscapes and scenery have changed over the years.

There will be examples by Brian Bennet, Harry Sheldon and other artists now and then, along with some art and local history too. The tour will also include work by sculptor Reg Butler and an Eric Gill relief.

September 11: 13.00

September 15: 13.00

Booking required

Hertford Castle Heritage Day

Hertford Castle goes back in time as the grounds are transformed for the day into a settlement of interactive medieval encampments. Watch fire breathing, falconry flying displays, storytelling and ooh and aah at re-enactment battle scenes. The castle will be open to visitors and activities include face-painting and archery. There will also food and drink stalls.

September 10: 12.00-16.00

No booking required

Scott’s Grotto


This unique 18th century grade I listed grotto in Ware is hidden on a residential street. Inside the enchanting Scott’s Grotto you will find six interconnected chambers decorated with thousands of shells, flints and pieces of coloured glass, extending 20 metres into the chalk hillside. Climb the steps above the grotto to the matching grade II* summerhouse.

September 10: 14.00 - 17.00

No booking required

Panshanger Park

Come and explore areas of Panshanger Park near Hertford not usually open to the public, including the old stable block. Join a guided tour to learn more about its transformation from a large country estate landscaped by Capability Brown and Humphrey Repton to a gravel extraction site and now a country park.

September 9-10: various times

Pre-booking: Main site and event is free to explore, but walks and talks to be pre-booked

132 Piccotts End

A rare opportunity to see these unique early 16th century wall paintings featured on BBC One's Celebrity Antiques Road Trip. Painted in 1527, on the eve of Henry VIII’s Reformation, the paintings in this Grade I listed medieval cottage are a statement of Catholic support during a time of religious turmoil and are the only surviving examples in the country. Tours of Piccotts End, near Hemel Hempstead will include a short talk on the history of the paintings and medieval history of the area.

September 16: various times

September 17: various times

Booking required