UK's hidden heritage has an open weekend

Click to follow
A FORMER slaughterhouse, a sewage works and a cereal factory are among 2,000 buildings that will open to the public as part of a European scheme to encourage people to learn about their heritage.

A total of 46 countries take part in European Heritage Days during this month, opening the doors of historic monuments and sites to allow the public a rare close-up view of the remnants of the nation's past.

Billed as an unofficial festival of architecture, this weekend's event throughout England - opening 2,000 buildings and monuments usually closed to the public - is expected to attract more than a million visitors.

The scheme began in France after a suggestion by the Council of Europe that it would help people to discover their heritage, Britain joined for the first time five years ago and the scheme now involves 46 countries including Albania, Estonia, Romania, Italy and Norway. Last September more than 19 million people visited 28,000 monuments and sites opened throughout Europe.

Among this year's more unusual attractions are a sewage works near Bristol, the Beaumont Riding School in Aldershot, Hampshire, where Winston Churchill learnt to ride, and the Tom Thumb Theatre in Margate, one of the smallest playhouses in the world. In Lincolnshire, one of the last remaining duck decoys, which is now in the middle of a golf course, will be opened for the first time. Built in the 1830s, the decoy comprised a lake with shallow channels running off the sides. Wild ducks were attracted to the water and then lured into the side channels where they were killed for food.

Rachel Marcus, of the Civic Trust, which helps to organise the event, said: "We have had a fantastic response from people wanting to take part this year and the event is growing all the time. It is a wonderful way of showing off Britain's hidden heritage."

Speaking at the Dyson Factor in Wiltshire, where this year's event was officially launched, Alan Howarth, the Arts minister, said: "Heritage Open Days are a wonderful opportunity for people to see England's wealth of buildings of historic, architectural and cultural interest that are not normally open to the public."

Designer Attractions

The David Mellor Cutlery Factory, Hathersage, near Sheffield A purpose-designed modern factory built on the site of a former gasworks, it is made from local gritstone and topped by a large circular roof.

The Abbey Wood MoD building, Bristol Opened in 1996, it has won awards for its "green" design. It covers 98 acres and is landscaped with energy-efficient buildings. It is home to the Defence Procurement Agency.

The Wakefield Theatre Designed in 1894 by Frank Matcham, a Victorian theatre builder, it has a lavish Baroque auditorium. Visitors will be able to see the backstage area and the raised platform from where the scenery drops.