Heritage Open Days 2021: 14 unusual places to visit in Devon

The Mount Kelly Grounds

The Mount Kelly Grounds - Credit: Archant

We've picked 14 amazing places to go during the Heritage Open Days this month, many of which are normally not open to the public.

Every year, more institutions are added to the amazing September calendar of Heritage Open Days in England. This is the largest festival of history and culture in the country, bringing together over 2,000 local people and organisations, and thousands of volunteers. It's an opportunity to appreciate all the treasures on your doorstep and all without paying a penny. 

This year, Devon has so many amazing options that it can be hard to pick which to attend. We've put together a list of unusual places to visit that are usually closed to the general public.

Ayshford Chapel

Where: Westleigh, EX16 7HL

When: 10th to 19th, 9am - 5pm

Booking: No booking required

A beautiful Grade I listed building originally built by the Ayshford Family in the 15th century, it is now cared for by the Friends of Friendless Churches.

Devon & Exeter Institution

Where: Exeter, EX1 1EZ

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When: Tours on 10th and then 14th to 17th, 1pm - 4pm. Workshops 11th and 18th, 10:30 am  - 12pm

Booking: Preferred for workshops, book here

Enjoy a tour of the elegant Georgian house which is home to an extensive library. The workshops will take you through a range of edible plants and how to make beautiful sugar craft flowers. There are separate workshops for adults and children.

The Dissenters Graveyard

Where: Exeter, EX2 4JF

When: 18th and 19th, 11am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Explore the recently renovated site where many 18th century Protestants were laid to rest. There will also be a performance by the Third Gallery Quire at 2pm on the Saturday open day.

Backstage at the Exeter Pheonix

Where: Exeter, EX4 3LS

When: 10th, 16th, and 17th, starts at 1pm, 3:30pm, and 6pm.

Booking: Preferred, book here

Go back stage at this popular arts and performance centre to see how it runs day-to-day. Pop round the corner to The Mermaid, and also learn about the past life of this stunning listed building and its hidden secrets.

A red tram sits in front of the station

Seaton Tramway - Credit: Reading Tom, Flickr

Mothecombe House

Where: Plymouth, PL8 1LA

When: 15th, starts at 10am and 12pm

Booking: Required, details here

Go back in time through this Grade I listed home that was previously adapted by Sir Edward Lutyens. They will be offering a guided tour of the main parts of the house and its collection of paintings, furniture, and porcelain.

Mount Kelly School

Where: Tavistock, PL19 0HZ

When: 10th and 17th, 4:15pm

Booking: No booking required

One of the leading independent schools in the South West will be hosting guided tours of the impressive building and its beautiful grounds. After you've walked round, there will be tea and cake, accompanied by the school's chamber choir and other musicians.

Spiceland Quaker Meeting House

Where: Uffculme, EX15 3AZ

When: 19th, 2pm - 4:30pm

Booking: No booking required

This historic 200-year-old Quaker Meeting House, and the burial ground which came into use around 1680, offer a fascinating insight into the history of the group. The location is surprisingly remote and offers a pleasant spot to sit with a drink after your visit.

Seaton Tramway

Where: The Underfleet, EX12 2WD

When: 11th, 11am and 2pm

Booking: Required, book here

Seaton Tramway is a hugely popular attraction in Devon and now you have the opportunity to go behind the scenes and celebrate their unique fleet of 14 heritage trams and the natural heritage of the beautiful Axe Valley.

St Anne's Chapel

Where: Exeter, EX4 6LA

When: 19th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Only normally open for services, this is a great opportunity to explore a beautiful medieval chapel, now a place of Orthodox Christian worship. A member of the parish will be in attendance and available to answer questions.

The Tamar Bridge stretching across the water

The Tamar Bridge - Credit: foundin_a_attic, Flickr

St. Leonard’s Tower

Where: Newton Abbot, TQ12

When: 18th, 10am - 3pm

Booking: No booking required

Explore the unusual tower and learn more about the market through history with a costumed interpreter. There will also be chance to craft your own 'Edible England themed' delight plus plenty of other activities.

The Tamar Anchorage

Where: Plymouth, PL5 1LP

When: 15th and 18th, 10am

Booking: Required, book here

Go inside the anchorage tower at the foot of the Tamar Bridge and learn more about the incredible architectural feat. This will be a guided tour and talk about the suspension bridge.

Tucker's Hall

Where: Exeter, EX4 3AN

When: 11th, 14th, 16th, and 18th, 10am - 1pm

Booking: No booking required

Enjoy a guided or self-guided tour of the medieval home of the Incorporation of The Weavers, Fullers and Shearmens Guilds. Peruse their interactive museum with films, touch sensitive maps, and archives about the guilds. 

Whiteway House

Where: Chudleigh, TQ13 0DY

When: 15th to 18th, 11am -1pm and 2pm - 5pm

Booking: Book on day

Take a walk through the outer and inner halls plus the main staircase of the house, with the opportunity to view more than 40 paintings belonging to the family.

Winsford Cottage Hospital

Where: Beaworthy, EX21 5XU

When: 11th and 12th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: Required, book here

Winsford took care of the community, including soldiers in the First World War, for nearly a century. It has now been loving restored by the Landmark Trust and offers insight into healthcare through history.

All details about these locations and plenty more can be found on the Heritage Open Days website: heritageopendays.org.uk