From 8th-17th September many of Kent’s top attractions will be opening their doors for FREE in celebration of our fantastic history and culture with Heritage Open Days. Now’s the chance to discover what’s on your doorstep, from days out with the family in castles, to special events and exclusive experiences.
Be sure to check out the Heritage Open Days website for specific open day dates as many of the below require pre-booking.
Let’s start with a big one. Canterbury Cathedral, one of Kent’s most renowned historic sites will be hosting not one, but three special tours as part of Heritage Open Days. Take the Historic Precincts Tour and discover how the Cathedral was first built, hear about the craftsmanship that went into its creation, and spot a few amusing gargoyles along the way. While the Queen Bertha and UNESCO Sites Walking Tour will take in all three parts of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, journeying through time to tell the tale of Queen Bertha and King Ethelbert, and the reintroduction of Christianity in Kent. The Cathedral’s Herb Garden will play host to the final exploration, with a Herbarium Tour that dives into medieval maladies and medicine once used by monks.
On 10th September, find out what the Romans really did do for Canterbury on a special guided tour back in time. Discover evidence of the bustling Roman town of Durovernum Cantiacorum (the precursor to modern day Canterbury to us). Beneath those modern streets you’ll the remains of a Roman town house, with its mosaics and underfloor heating (seriously), not to mention some incredible Roman finds.
Oh it has to be said, Medway is renowned for its heritage and incredible architecture, so it’s no wonder the area has more Heritage Open Day events than we could ever possibly hope to list. Highlights include free entry to the Huguenot Museum, the first and only of its kind in Britain, which tells the tales of Britain’s first refugees and the skills they brought with them. Plus, the Medway Archives Centre will be giving locals the chance to get to grips with their family history, with free one hour sessions to help beginners start their family tree. The area’s naval history will be captured in a guided tour of the Chatham Naval Memorial, detailing the amazing stories of those commemorated here, and the significant World War events they were a part of.
We mentioned Chatham’s maritime history, right? We’d better set sail for the Historic Dockyard Chatham then. Yes, The Dockyard will be taking part in Heritage Open Days, offering the chance to discover 400 years of shipbuilding, ropemaking and pioneering technology, all at the heart of the original Royal Dockyard site. You’ll have the chance to learn about the skilled workers employed here, and even hear from a former Dockyard apprentice and worker, as they talk you through the history of this important site on a one hour guided tour through time.
Chartwell, the much-loved home of Sir Winston Churchill, is the perfect place to learn about the former Prime Minister’s life beyond Downing Street. Here you can tour the house where he raised his young family, decorated as it was in the 1930s, stroll the magnificent grounds and lakes he created, and even delve into his studio, home to the largest collection of Churchill’s paintings. Just down the road at Quebec House, another important figure’s home can be found. James Wolfe, whose victory at the Battle of Quebec changed the course of history, was raised here in Westerham. Discover his family pastimes, enjoy a taste of Georgian cookery, and especially for Heritage Open Day weekend, see an exhibition of local talent from the town’s many photographer’s, poets and creatives through time.
You’ll find even more National Trust properties opening their doors for free up the road as plantsman’s paradise, Emmetts Garden will be offering free entry to their gorgeous gardens, prepare yourself for those Wealden views, while former hunting lodge and oh-so-impressive Knole will be granting visitors free access to its centuries old collection. For a taste of Kentish history and produce, Scotney Castle’s Heritage and Harvest Weekend will be part of the celebrations, the chance to see falconry, chainsaw carving, wood turning, not to mention taste some sensational local produce.
The Powell Cotton Museum is an absolute treasure trove of curiosities from around the world, taxidermy animals, archaeological finds, intriguing interiors and gorgeous gardens, set within the grade II listed Quex House. Join the highlights tour of the museum, or take the Quex House Tour. Bring a picnic to enjoy in the walled garden, check out the brand new Namibian Narratives addition to the collection, which features pieces commissioned by the museum, created by artisan craftswomen in Namibia.
The former Kent Coalfield has many a tale to tell, so we highly recommend paying a visit with free entry! What’s more, the museum will be offering a behind-the-scenes archive showcase, showing some of the documents and image collections cared for in the archive store. Delve into the history of this intriguing site, and discover the journey from the creation of coal to the legacy of the colliery through the voices of those who once lived and worked here.