Join in England’s largest festival of history and culture

Every September Heritage Open Days hosts thousands of free events celebrating the nation’s history and culture. For 2020 (11-20 September), you won’t be bound by where your feet can take you – you can also discover hidden gems virtually. Events will be subject to local and national government guidelines at the time, so check before travelling.

Meet the 18th century David Attenborough

Let Hampshire’s Gilbert White & The Oates Collections introduce you to a pioneering parson naturalist who inspired Charles Darwin. Join collections manager Kimberley James online as she introduces White, who celebrated his 300th anniversary this year. He revolutionised the way the world looked at nature, inspiring future scientists and naturalists. Register for access to the Zoom talk on Friday 11 September, which will then be available on YouTube until 20 September.

Make it snappy in Derby

Derby’s W. W. Winter, the UK’s oldest photographic studio business, may not be hosting studio tours this year, but you can explore its photography archive and help create a new online gallery of gardens and urban green spaces.  Using images from its archives, it will highlight places of hidden nature that are important sites in the history and heritage of Derbyshire.

Potter around Arnold Bennet’s ‘Mother Town’

Explore Arnold Bennett’s Burslem in Staffordshire – regarded as the oldest town in Stoke-on-Trent, an area known as The Potteries” thanks to its world-class ceramics heritage. Bennett set most of his Five Towns books and short stories here, with Burslem being the “Mother Town”. This virtual tour of the heritage buildings featured in his books reveals more about them – present and past – with commentary, Bennett readings, archive photos and film footage. Pre-booking required.

Explore something fishy in Hull

Hull’s iconic Fish Trail has encouraged thousands of people to explore the city’s Old Town since it was established in 1992. Head to Hull on Sunday 20 September and popular city guide Paul Schofield will guide you through the trail to point out every fish carving, and explain the city’s history and architecture. The carvings are all life-size, from a school of 36 tiny anchovies to a 10ft ray overlooking Victoria Pier. Expect fishy puns too.

Visit one of East Yorkshire’s secret buildings

Beverley Friary might lie within the shadow of the famous Minster in this elegant market town, but relatively few people know that it exists. The current building, a fascinating mix of architectural styles and materials, is all that remains above ground of the original Dominican Friary founded in 1233. Inside there is a great hall with a hammer beam roof characteristic of the 15th century, striking 16th and 17th century features including a tiled floor, and remarkable wall-paintings – rarely on view but open for Heritage Open Day, Saturday 12 September.

Discover an island… in Lincolnshire

Ask where the Isle of Axholme is, and few would answer Lincolnshire. But this northwest corner of the county has a fascinating tale to tell. Before a drainage system designed and created between 1626-1629 by Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden, who introduced Dutch land reclamation methods to England, it was surrounded by marshland, which left the towns and villages virtual islands. It was “separated” from the rest of the county by the River Trent, from Yorkshire by the Old River Don, and from Nottinghamshire by the River Idle. An online talk on 12 September will reveal more.

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    Golden Angel, Burslem.

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    Hull Fish Trail

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    Beverley Friary