Doors to treasured buildings opened

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In what is being billed as the country's biggest public access project, more than 3,500 of England's most treasured buildings and venues are to open to the public.

Stately homes, priories and churches will be available for public viewing as part of the Heritage Open Days initiative, running from 11 to 14 September.

Last year a similar project, organised by English Heritage and the Civic Trust, attracted nearly a million visitors. But this month's event will be the biggest yet. Griff Rhys Jones, president of the Civic Trust, said the event – for which 35,000 volunteers have been mobilised – "makes architecture accessible and heritage human".

One of the cultural gems opening its doors is Lady Waterford Hall, in Berwick, which contains a large collection of biblical murals. Another is the Chapel of our Lady, Rotherham – a rare medieval bridge chantry.

For the full list of venues, see

Cultural gems

St Mary the Virgin Church, Seaham, Co Durham

An Anglo-Saxon church which dates back to the 7th century, St Mary the Virgin has been listed as one of the 20 oldest churches in the country. There is a 13th-century tower, evidence of Tudor battlements, a churchyard, and stained-glass windows featuring figures created in a pre-Raphaelite style by the artist Kempe. The poet Lord Byron was married to Annabelle Milbank at nearby Seaham Hall in 1815.

Fort Brockhurst, Gosport, Hampshire

The doughnut-shaped fort was one of several built in the 1860s to protect the harbour at Portsmouth and is one of five on the north side, known as the Gosport Advanced Line. An extensive collection of antiques is housed there.

Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle

Described as a "jewel in the heart of beautiful Teesdale", the purpose-built museum was constructed in the 19th century by John and Josephine Bowes, the former a successful businessman, the latter a celebrated amateur painter. Seventeen years in to their marriage, Josephine Bowes laid the foundation stone in 1869. Between 1862 and 1874, when Josephine died, the couple bought an extraordinary 15,000 objets d'art, the majority of which are still in the house today. They include paintings by Canaletto and Goya, and porcelain crafted at Sévres, a commune in Paris.

Bromley House Library, Nottingham

The house, on Angel Row, was built in 1752. Samuel Peak, the philanthropist, died in his mansion 11 years later. During the early 19th century the ground floor was converted into a bank and then a draper's shop. In 1820, it was purchased by Nottingham Subscription Library for £2,750. Part of it was converted into the Bromley House Library, which is home to thousands of antique books.