Enjoy the annual peek into our history and culture

Posted 16th September 2021

The largest festival of history and culture in the country is ready to reveal itself, and Northamptonshire is playing its part in this year’s Heritage Open Days (HOD) season, giving you plenty of opportunity to discover new places and try new experiences, between September 10 and 19, writes Sammy Jones.

Daventry Museum has a tasty new exhibit to share which explores the town’s culinary heritage; displays will feature old kitchen utensils and some cooking devices of old that we still recognise today. A photographic archive has been raided to share images of past food retailers and celebrations from the town, and wartime cookbooks give up their tips for eating well while being frugal. Traditional Northamptonshire recipes will be shared too; anyone for Hock and Dough or Curd Cheesecakes?

Visit daventrymuseum.org.uk
for dates and times.

Remember the smell and the feel of an old United Counties bus? As a wee nipper, hopping aboard one of those was the start of a major adventure. And who remembers racing to reach the best seat first?

The United Counties Omnibus Company was registered on September 24, 1921, and this HOD centenary celebration will thrill transport lovers, with a display of classic buses being staged in Northampton’s Market Square. Fancy taking a ride? On you go – enjoy a historic bus route for free. The display runs on
Sept 19, 10am-4pm

At the Grosvenor Centre, check out the pop-up celebration of Northampton and Corby’s New Town heritage with 60 Miles by Road or Rail, a chance to explore written and recorded memories from residents past and present. Should you wish to, you could contribute your own story or memory too. Visit 60milesbyroadorrail.co.uk for dates and times.

And there is more travel to engage with; a chance to get on the water for a two-hour cruise on the Grand Union Canal in Northamptonshire. The trips will be on an all weather boat with seating for everyone. Recline and enjoy the views and the running commentary that will explore the history and building of the canal section from Gayton Junction to Blisworth Tunnel. Pre-booking is essential. Check in with crusadorcommunityboating.org.uk for availability.

Heritage Bus Services will be getting into gear at George Row, with classic buses and coaches taking travellers on routes around Northampton and the local area (Sept 11 & 12, 9.30am-5pm), and Delapre Abbey invites you to explore its walled garden, listen to historical talks, check out classic cars and peruse its Heritage Fair (Sept 11 & 12). To see what is happening when, visit delapreabbey.org

Queen Eleanor Cross

The Queen Eleanor Cross has been standing proud for 800 years. Erected by King Edward I in memory of his wife Eleanor, it has stood firm against the weather and in more recent times, motoring and associated pollution. It is one of just three that still stand from the 12 that were originally commissioned by the King, marking the places where his wife’s funeral cortege rested overnight en route to London.

Sadly though, deterioration has been rapid in recent years. Learn more about this magnificent monument before taking the short walk to overlook the site of the Battle of Northampton in 1460 – the first large-scale battle in the Wars of the Roses. Tours will run on the hour, every hour between 10am and 3pm on September 11 & 12.
Visit northantsbattles.com

Northamptonshire’s Natural History Society will be inviting you to take a peek at life through the lens (Sept 11 & 12, 10am-4pm).

Whether it’s astrology, geology, microscopy, meteorology or photography that interests you, you’ll be in good company here. Pay a visit to the group at 10 Castilian Terrace in Northampton for the chance to see displays and demonstrations. Bring your own plant or item for a detailed look, or take along that rock or fossil you’ve been struggling to identify and let the experts help you.

You’ll have seen our three-page feature on The Deco Theatre in last month’s edition of Pulse, and it too is inviting visitors for HOD, a chance to check in with The Old Savoy.
For dates and times visit thedeco.co.uk 

Churches share their past

Photo: John Kightley MBE – The Holy Sepulchre Church, Northampton

In Weedon, the Church of St Peter and St Paul will reveal the histories of the soldiers at rest in its churchyard (Sept 11 10am-3pm & Sept 12 11am-4pm).. 

The church tower has been standing tall since the 12th century, and is all that remains of the original medieval church. The design of the building which greets you today was constructed in the 19th century to accommodate military personnel who worshipped there while stationed at the old Weedon Barracks.

Event organisers will share details of those men and their lives, and there will be displays of military artefacts. Giving a nod to this year’s HOD Edible England theme, you can learn more about a soldiers’ diet, from foraging to rations. Feeling peckish? Feel free to try some of the foods they would have eaten! (Sept 11, 10am-3pm & Sept 12, 11am-4pm).

The oldest standing building in Northampton, the Holy Sepulchre Church 1100AD is an amazing historical record. If its walls could only talk…although they do, kind of; from the plaques placed around the building, to the musket shot hits, the special moments and scars from the past are still present. The church has also hosted Parliament, and welcomed many Kings and Queens.

A restoration project costing £1.3 million over the course of 27 years is now complete and this national treasure awaits your arrival. (Sept 11, 10am-4pm & Sept 12, Midday-4pm).

St Peter’s Church at Marefair stands next to the buried remains of a Saxon palace and this 900-year-old church boasts plenty of wonderful carvings. There is much to see – including the bust of William Smith, the father of British geology. (Open Sept 11, 10am-4pm & Sept 12, Midday-5pm.)

If you want to travel a little further,
St Mary’s Church in the village of Tansor (little more than a stones throw from Oundle) is worth the journey. Part of the building dates to the Saxon period and this pretty holy house boasts 15th century open benches, and the remains of a screen from the same period. Visit warmingtonbenefice.org.uk for dates.

In Fotheringhay, the Church of St Mary and All Saints will welcome you. The village has a colourful past, to put it mildly; It’s where Richard III was born , where, famously, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed, and from where Edward IV plotted – and failed – to replace the king of Scotland.

The event blurb states it perfectly, ‘Between 1100 and 1612 Fotheringhay was a place to be reckoned with, a place that reflected and took part in many of the bloody events which shaped the history of the two nations.’

Visit on September 18 between 9.30am and 5pm. Advance booking is essential – click to thefriendsoffotheringhaychurch.com 

Also near Oundle, the Church of John the Baptist, dating from the 13th century, will be open for guided tours, or pick up the self-guided leaflet and suit your own timeframe. A trail for children will also run. Tap to facebook.com/achurchsjtbc

Finally, in Towcester, visit St Mary’s Church. Once there was a medieval village here, but today the holy house is all that remains. It is adjacent to the splendid Easton Neston House. 

> For full details of all these events visit heritageopendays.org.uk All events are free.