Heritage Open Days 2021: 15 exciting events in Norfolk

Pensthorpe Natural Park (photo: Marcus Harpur)

Pensthorpe Natural Park (photo: Marcus Harpur) - Credit: Picture: Marcus Harpur

We've picked 15 amazing places to go during the Heritage Open Days this month, all of which are free to enter.

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. There will be an array of different open houses, talks, and tours taking place between the 10th and 19th of September.

This year, Norfolk has so many amazing options that it can be hard to pick which to attend. We've put together a list of some of the best where there will be ample opportunity to explore, take a walk, or listen to a talk by a local expert.

The Bear Shop Garden

Where: Norwich, NR3 1HN

When: 10th - 12th and 17th - 19th, 11am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

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Hidden on the beautiful street of Elm Hill, is a garden paradise. Considered to be based on a design by Gertrude Jekyll, the garden is found behind a 15th-century building that is now home to The Bear Shop, a rare delight in its own right.

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Bishop's House Garden

Where: Norwich, NR3 1SB

When: 14th - 15th,  10.30am - 12.00pm, 12.30pm - 2pm, 2.30pm - 4pm

Booking: Required, closes on the 13th of September

For more than 900 years, this peaceful garden has been cultivated by the Bishops of Norwich. Explore the wonders of this formal city garden with a boxed herb garden, organic kitchen garden, and so much more.

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Hampton Court Secret Garden

Where: King's Lynn, PE30 5DX

When: 12th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Described as a 'hidden secret garden', this next open day is situated behind the 15th century riverside warehouse. Take a stroll and learn more about the riverside history of the town.

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Lazar House in Sprowston, the 900-year-old former Leper hospital, almshouse and more recently Norwic

Lazar House in Sprowston, the 900-year-old former Leper hospital, almshouse and more recently Norwich's first branch library, now home to the Assist Trust (photo: Denise Bradley) - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

Lazar House

Where: Norwich, NR3 4HX

When: 12th, 10am - 2pm

Booking: Required, closes on the 11th of September

Book a walk and talk by local historian, Trevor Nuthall, taking in the history of this incredible building. First constructed as a Leper Hospital in the 1100s, the building has had many unusual and fascinating roles over the years.

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Little Cressingham Mill

Where: Thetford, IP25 6NT

When: 11th, 10:30 - 15:00 guided walk, 11:00 - 15:00 mill open

Booking: Required for tour, not required for entry

A unique location, our next spot is both a windmill and a watermill combined into one. Enjoy a pleasant walk along the river with a guide who will share historical and other important sites along the way. 

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Octagon Chapel

Where: Norwich, NR3 1BN

When: 12th, 11am - 4pm. 17th, 10am - 4pm. 19th, 12pm - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Normally closed to the public except during services, this is a rare opportunity to explore an unusual Unitarian chapel constructed in the late 1700s. 

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Old Hunstanton Hall

Where: Hunstanton, PE36 6JS

When: 16th, tours at 10am, 11am and 12pm

Booking: Required, closes on the 14th of September

Explore this beautiful estate with a guided tour and then relax with coffee and biscuits at their Grade I listed church. It's the perfect way to stretch your legs this month and dogs are more than welcome. 

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Old Hunstanton Hall Picture: Ian Burt

Old Hunstanton Hall Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Pensthorpe Natural Park

Where: Fakenham, NR21 0LN

When: 13th, 1pm

Booking: Required, closes on the 12th of September

With over 700 acres of wonderful countryside to explore, the whole family can enjoy Pensthorpe in September. Stroll over to the Discovery Centre to see the amazing treasures found in the area that range from a hand axe believed to date from 8000 BC, to tusks from a woolly mammoth.

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Polkey’s Mill

Where: Reedham, NR13 3UB

When: 18th, 10:30 - 16:00 for guided walk. Mill open 11:30 - 16:00

Booking: Required, closes on the 17th of September

Take a guided walk along the Wherryman’s Way from Reedham to Polkey's Mill then tour the mill which has helped keep the area drained for agriculture and living for many years. 

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Regal Cinema

Where: Wymondham, NR18 0AT

When: 14th, 16th, and 18th, 10am - 1pm and 2pm - 4:30pm

Booking: No booking required

Between 1937 and 1993, the Regal Cinema wowed audiences with the latest and greatest films of the time. Since closing, it has passed into private hands but for Heritage Open Days you will be able to tour and see many of the original fixtures including the original Gaumont Kallee 12 projection equipment.

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St George’s Theatre

Where: Great Yarmouth, NR30 2PG

When: 11th - 12th and 18th - 19th, 11am - 2pm

Booking: No booking required

Just a short walk from the seafront, you will be free to explore this beautiful Grade I listed building with the help of an audio visual self-guided tour. Learn more about the history of this incredible chapel which is recognised as one of the finest examples of Baroque architecture in the country.

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An aerial view shows the full building which is octagonal with red brick and a tower

St George's Theatre in Great Yarmouth - Credit: John Fielding, Flickr

St Peter’s Church

Where: St Peter’s Forncett,  NR16 1LT

When: 11th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Explore the rare treasures of this 1000 year old flint tower with unusual stairs and beautiful windows - there will be a volunteer on hand to tell you more. Then take a walk in the area which was hugely popular with William Wordsworth and his wife. 

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The Walks - Knights of Skirbeck

Where: King's Lynn, PE30 1PE

When: 12th, 10am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Families are in for a real treat with this event where you will be transported back in time to the medieval period. From a great range of exhibitions, to a have-a-go section that includes archery and dress-up, there's so much to do at The Walks.

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The Waterways Picnic

Where: Great Yarmouth, NR30 4EW

When: 11th - 12th. 10am - 4pm

Booking: No booking required

Pack a delicious hamper of treats and head over to the pretty waterways for a great day of activities and fun. You can also add to your visit and hire a boat from the Island Café and see the landscape from a different angle. 

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Guided Wherry Tour

Where: Ludham, NR29 5QG

When: 18th - 19th, 10am - 3pm

Booking: No booking required

Enjoy a guided tour of The Albion, a wherry boat constructed more than 100 years ago which was used for trading on the water. You'll also be taken to the work shed where an Edible England exhibition will be sure to wow.

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A long wherry boat sits on the water, its sail down

A Norfolk Wherry - Credit: Jim Linwood, Flickr

See the full list of Heritage Open Days on their website here. Remember to check the status of the event before your visit to avoid any cancellations.