9 Norfolk hidden history sites opening for free

Stracey Arms Drainage Mill

Stracey Arms Drainage Mill - Credit: Mike Page

Hundreds of historic gems are open for free across Norfolk for Heritage Open Days from September 10-19. See inside windmills, lighthouses and private homes and enjoy rural and urban guided tours and walks.  

Some of these popular events must be booked in advance including: 

Yarmouth Ice House 

The Great Yarmouth Ice House at Haven Bridge which is open on September 18 and 19. It played a vital role in Yarmouth becoming a global fishing port in the 19th century and this is a rare chance to see inside and enjoy a guided tour led by Out There Arts.   

The Ice House was built around 1840 as one of a pair and is now the only one of its kind in the country. Ice would be brought from the river and Broads (and later from Norway) in the winter and stored in the ice house – where it could stay frozen for months. It was used to preserve herring caught by Yarmouth’s fishing fleet, which was then be taken by train to London’s Billingsgate fish market.   

Booking essential at outtherearts.org.uk  

Great Yarmouth Ice House

Great Yarmouth Ice House - Credit: Out There Arts

Hunstanton Lighthouse 

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See the dungeon and climb the tower at Hunstanton Lighthouse on September 10. Discover its fascinating history – and that of the neighbouring Marconi listening station. On a clear day there are fabulous views across the Wash too.   

Also in Hunstanton – enjoy a guided walk through the grounds, across the moat and into the courtyard of Old Hunstanton Hall, on September 16. Booking open for the lighthouse August 26 to September 7 and for the walk September 1-14 on 01485 532376 or andrew.murray1942@gmail.com  

Old lighthouse at hunstanton. Photo: @norfolk_wanderer

Old lighthouse at hunstanton. Photo: @norfolk_wanderer - Credit: Archant

Rare water and windmill

See Norfolk’s only combined windmill and watermill in its 200th anniversary year. No booking required for the Little Cressingham Mill open day on September 11 but booking essential for a five mile circular guided walk from the Olde Windmill Inn in nearby Great Cressingham. Includes plenty of time to explore Little Cressingham Mill. Booking for walk via Eventbrite or call 01603 223624. 

Little Cressingham Windmill

Little Cressingham Windmill - Credit: Courtesy of Little Cressingham Windmill

There are also plenty of places not normally opening to visitors which will be welcoming people with no need to book including: 

A tucked-away city garden 

If you go down Norwich's Elm Hill in September you're sure of a big surprise. The garden hidden behind The Bear Shop will be open 11am-4pm on Friday, Saturday and Sunday September 10-12 and 17-19. The pretty garden tucked away behind the 15th century shop is believed to be based on a design by Gertrude Jekyll. Plant stall and refreshments. No booking required.

The Bear Shop, Elm Hill, Norwich

The Bear Shop, Elm Hill, Norwich - Credit: The Bear Shop

An explosives store 

In a corner of Cherry Tree car park in Dereham is a rare survivor from the middle of the 19th century – a Victorian explosives store which once housed explosives for the town’s Rifle Volunteers. Open September 17, 1-4pm, no booking required.    

A country chapel and a city chapel 

Oulton Chapel, at Oulton, near Blickling, opened in 1731. The little-known chapel with box pews and a gallery, has been restored by Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust and the site includes a coach house for the minister’s pony and trap, plus the privately occupied Manse house. Tours and refreshments from the Friends of Oulton Chapel. Open September 11-12 and 18-19, 10am-4pm. No booking required. 

Oulton Chapel

Oulton Chapel - Credit: Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust

The Octagon Chapel in Colegate, Norwich, was built in 1756 and is still a place of worship as well as a venue for concerts and events. Find out about its history and its congregations through the centuries on September 12, 17 and 19.  

Octagon Chapel, Norwich

Octagon Chapel, Norwich - Credit: Octagon Chapel

A landmark mill

Find out about the project to restore the landmark Stracey Arms Drainage Mill, on the A47 near Acle, on September 12 from 4-6pm.

Stracey Arms Drainage Mill

Stracey Arms Drainage Mill - Credit: Mike Page

A town hall 

Tour Great Yarmouth Town Hall on September 11 and 12 and get the chance to buy local food as well as discover the history of the handsome building.  

Great Yarmouth Town Hall.Photo: Andy Darnell

Great Yarmouth Town Hall.Photo: Andy Darnell - Credit: Archant © 2011

Full details of all of the hundreds of Heritage Open Day Events across Norfolk at heritageopendays.org.uk