Free fun for everyone with the return of Heritage Open Days

Posted 5th September 2023

This September, Northampton will once again mark Heritage Open Days with a wealth of events to lure you away from the sofa and into the fresh air!

Heritage Open Days is an opportunity to engage with activities suitable for individuals, children and families, spanning exhibitions and workshops, walks and tours, open days and craft events and performances.

And at a time when the purse strings are being tightened more than ever before, it’s a delight to be able to say that every event can be enjoyed for free!

The full programme can be found at but below, here are some of the enticing events.
Dig deep and enjoy.

Friday, September 8

Hop aboard the bus with Jeyes of Earls Barton and enjoy a network of free tours, and naturally these buses are vintage. You don’t need to book, and you’ll be able to enjoy some of the hidden treasures across the county, which are free to enter too.

The wheels on the bus will go round and round all day long, well, between 9am-5.30pm. Click to for details.

St Peter’s Church in Marefair has a history dating back to the 12th century, but the Grade I listed building was closed in 1995, and recent efforts to make it work as a heritage landmark haven’t been successful due to the lack of facilities.

The Norman building has many points of awesome architecture, and the churchyard is the resting place of William Smith, the Father of English Geology.

The Old Black Lion public house which overlooks the church, is a Grade II listed building which ceased trading five years ago. It will be open for HODs, but you’ll not get a pint of the wet stuff!

The long term goal is to restore the pub and have it once again serve the community, which in turn will benefit the church – the project should be completed by March 2025.

Four public tours will be hosted on the site – each will cater for a maximum of 10 people, so you do need to be quick with the booking –

St Matthews Church, on St Matthew’s Parade, was designed by local architect Matthew Henry, who delivered a 13th Century Gothic style holy house. Artworks there include Henry Moore’s Madonna.

Pop along and soak up the architecture, through to Sunday, September 10, between 12.30pm and 4pm (and again between Friday, September 15 and Sunday, September 17).

Peek online:

Saturday, September 9

For the first time, Lamport Hall is partaking in the HODs, and visitors will have plenty to take their attentions; in the hall some of the conservators responsible for restoring elements of the collection in recent years will be giving a demonstration, and there will be a workshop by Lincoln Conservation, a talk and demo by Landi textiles conservators and a book conservation demo.

If you’ve always fancied trying your hand at the art of stained glass window making, Claire Seely Glass Design will be on hand to assist, and share her expertise.

Youngsters won’t be left out either, with hands-on crafts for them to get involved with, Georgian characters to meet and a Historical Legacies treasure trail.

You can try croquet on the lawn with Northampton Croquet, watch the Morris Dancers getting jangly or even have a go at horseshoe tossing!

On top of all that, more than 200 pieces of art will be on display by local creatives. Get involved between 10am-4pm.

Visit the tranquil Tudor manor house of Canons Ashby near Daventry and explore the stunning gardens, the historic house, the medieval church and maybe enjoy one of the pop-up talks being offered on site.

The tearoom will be serving light lunches and cream teas to fuel your visit! No booking necessary, and the house will be open all day. Visit

Let the boat take the strain and enjoy a two-hour trip on the water with a canal trip entering into Blisworth Tunnel, and commentary along the way so you’ll learn loads as you relax.

Well-behaved owners with pets will be welcome, but it’s not suitable for young children. Crusader Community Boating will depart Blisworth at 10am and 2pm. Pre-booking is essential. Email

The Nene Valley Festival will roll out by the riverside starting today and running through to September 23. Get more details at

Northampton Castle was once one of the most important – and largest – in England, serving as a site of strategic and military importance and the favoured residence of the kings between 1100 and 1350. How we’d love to travel back in time to experience that directly.

During HODs you’ll hear all about the battles, sieges and the parliaments and the trials.

Among the rich history, you’ll learn which king was imprisoned at the castle, and discover all about the Trial of Thomas Becket, which happened here.

Little of the castle remains today – the once impressive build was negatively affected by the plague, and was partially in ruins as far back as the mid-16th century. But its evocative history only increases with the passing of time.

The guided walks will be held from 11am (with further HOD dates on Sunday, September 10, Saturday, September 16 and Sunday, September 17). Visit:

Take a trip back in time with Northampton Transport Heritage Buses and the return of the classic red Daimlers which used to shuttle people along the ‘fampton’s bus routes now transporting heritage visitors back in time, and connecting you with some of the participating heritage events in the area. Hop on and off between 10am and 5pm (also on Sunday, September 10)

Calling all those of you with a penchant for astronomy, geology, microscopy, meteorology and photography – Northampton Natural History Society’s base at Castilian Terrace in Northampton will be open with displays and demonstrations to peruse and enjoy.

Why not take along a plant or an item to look at under the microscope, or pop along with a fossil or rock that you want identified?

The event will be open between 10am and 4pm on Saturday 9th and Sunday, September 10th, and children’s activities will be running too.
Check out

Northampton’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre has welcomed more than 150,000 visitors over the past four decades, and it has been a popular place for Royals through the centuries too. ‘A national treasure, an icon of Northamptonshire and a building of international significance presents our visitors with the wow factor!’ promise organisers.

Visit and learn about the attraction for yourselves – the church will be open 10am-4pm (and again on Sunday, September 10, midday-4pm).
Explore more:

Northampton’s Transport Heritage will be running bus tours to Jeyes, so you can pop along, have lunch and explore the apothecary.
It will be open between 9am and 5pm, and again on Sunday (Sep 10, 10am-4pm). Children’s activities will be running too.

Kingsley Park Methodist Church will be all in a ‘glass’ of its own with a special display dedicated to the art of stained-glass; from intricate designs to bold colours.

The event will run between 10am and 2pm and drinks and snacks will be served at the Milton Street location.
A dazzling display:

Sunday, September 10

An opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of the 200-year-old Weedon Royal Ordnance Depot, and enjoy the many artefacts giving an insight into its operations from Napoleonic times to beyond the Second World War. A walking tour will begin at 1pm, and booking for the walk is necessary. The Depot will be open between 10am and 4pm.
Make your way to:

Tuesday, September 12

Sulgrave Manor was George Washington’s ancestral home, and was saved from ruin by donors here in the UK and the USA. It is with good reason that it is called the ‘original home of the Special Relationship.’

‘Be inspired by our stories and consider why working together is still important today,’ is the invitation. The picturesque home will be open between 10.30am and 4pm (last entry at 3pm).

Wednesday, September 13

Abington Church has a rich history, with some parts of the building dating back to 1200. The church – found in Abington Park – has a special connection to William Shakespeare too. Pop along for a look around and discover more about that Bardy brilliant association. Visit at leisure between 10am and 4pm.

Want more info? Head to

Thursday, September 14

The Chester House Estate will host the Northamptonshire Heritage Fair, with many stalls, exhibits, displays and demonstrations to get involved with during the five hours of fun – things begin at 11am.
The fair is taking over three venues in all – with the Northampton Museum & Art Gallery and Abington Park Museum also involved. ‘Something for all’ is the tagline.

Tappety-tap to

Kelmarsh Hall will open for a special one-day exhibition and the opportunity to see a number of hidden treasures, previously unseen, which are being freed from the archives, which are full of items from the families who have called the Palladian-style manor home since it was built in 1732.

Kelmarsh Hall will be open between 10am and 3pm and the Sweet Pea’s Tea room will be serving up tasty snacks.
See inside:

Thursday, September 14 & Friday, September 15 (10am-2pm)
Saturday, September 16 & Sunday, September 17 (2pm-4pm)

The Deco Theatre opened its doors as The Savoy almost 90 years ago, when it was described as ‘the last word in comfort.’
By the 1950s it had a new name – the ABC – and a decade later its stage was popular with the touring bands of the era, with everyone from The Beatles to trouser splitting PJ Proby passing through on their tours.

As the Cannon cinema in the 1990s its popularity waned as audiences chose the multi-screen complexes. In 1995, it shut up shop for the last time and the only thing present there for the following five years were the pigeons who came home to roost!

In 2000, refurbishment turned it into a multi-purpose venue and The Old Savoy has been serving the community as the home of The Deco Theatre for almost 20 years.

This tour of the building will offer insight into its secrets and much more of its history. More info at

Friday, September 15

Take a half hour tour of The Charles Rennie Mackintosh House (78 Derngate) and enjoy some seriously unique interiors in the ordinary Georgian house that was made extraordinary thanks to the vision of world-renowned Mackintosh, whose work as an artist, architect and designer is revered.

Pre-booking is essential for these visits, and the home will be open between 1.30pm-4pm. Visit

Saturday, September 16

Take the opportunity to view the Blisworth Tapestry, which details the history of the village from the Roman times, in the Baptist Chapel Coffee House.

A Heritage display will also be set up by the Blisworth Heritage Society and there will be a heritage walk in the area.
The kids will be catered for too, with activities just for them.
Explore more:

Crusader Community Boating is back on the water with an opportunity for you to ‘Discover the River Nene in Northampton.’ The two-hour river trip will start from Becket’s Park in Northampton town centre and will run both up and down stream The trips have full access for wheelchair users and depart at 10am and 2pm. Booking closes on August 31. Hurry and email

Enjoy a display of classic buses featuring bygone operators in Daventry – and free journeys on traditional services to the surrounding villages will be offered.

The Daventry Foodies Market will be tempting you with speciality foods and family friendly entertainment will be offered.
Five hours of fun from 10am. Get up to speed now at

Take advantage of your time in the town by soaking in some of the delights at the Made in Daventry exhibition, ‘inspired by people and places around the town.’

Displays will explore creativity, historic crafts and manufacturing businesses in the town and beyond.
Find out more:

Saturday, September 16 & Sunday, September 17

The Playhouse Theatre – located on Clare Street in Northampton – might be small, but it is perfectly formed, with an auditorium, stage, dressing room, props loft, bar and a surprise Victorian article!

Theatre members will be on hand to give tours of the space and to explain about the development of the theatre which has been active for more than six decades.

Programmes exploring that history – and the famous names who have been associated with it – will be available.
If you want to let loose your creativity, the group is always seeking new members – whether actors, technical staff, stage managements, bar, or for front of house volunteers. This is the perfect time to find out more and dip in a toe!

No booking required, and you’ll be made welcome between 10am and 5pm. Tap to for details.

So that’s a look into some of the many free opportunities making up this year’s Heritage Open Days.

Keep checking the website, get out and about and be inspired by the place we all call home.