Historic Harrogate district sites offer free access for Heritage Open Days
Last updated Sep 1, 2023
Photo of the neolithic Thornborough Henges.
Thornborough Henges, north of Ripon, will be accessible. Photo: English Heritage.

More than 5,000 historic buildings and cultural sites across the country will be thrown open to the public in the week ahead as part of England’s largest festival of history and culture. 

Heritage Open Days, from September 8 to 17, will see dozens of venues in our district take part, offering free admittance to anyone curious about their heritage, community and history. 

In Harrogate, the opportunities include a trip up the observation tower on Harlow Hill, a tour of the town’s brown heritage plaques, guided walks around Grove Road cemetery and the 1,000 Commonwealth War Graves at Stonefall Cemetery, as well as heritage tours of Pannal, Ripley, the Valley Gardens and the Duchy Estate. 

In Ripon, the events include separate tours of the city’s canalrailway and industrial heritage, as well as a look behind the scenes at the late-Elizabethan Fountains Hall. 

A little further north, there will be a tour of the neolithic Thornborough Henges, and in Nidderdale, How Stean Gorge, Nidderdale Museum and Pateley Playhouse will also be taking part. 

Details of all these and many other events, including booking information, can be found through the searchable database on the Heritage Open Days website.

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The festival, which runs from Friday, September 8 to Sunday, September 17, is organised by the National Trust, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and run by thousands of local organisations and volunteers. This year’s theme is Creativity Unwrapped. 

Liam Montgomery, Heritage Open Days’ marketing and projects manager, said:  

“Whether it’s art, music, writing, or another outlet, creativity moves us and shapes our history and culture. This year, organisers have once again come up trumps and created a stellar programme of events which put the spotlight on the people and places who give England’s heritage the X-factor and inspire festival-goers to engage with thousands of years of creativity.”

Churches taking part

Run in conjunction with the Heritage Open Days, Yorkshire Churches Day (YCD) will see hundreds of churches across North Yorkshire welcome visitors on Saturday, September 16. 

Organised by the Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust (YHCT), YCD is a day where the public is encouraged to visit their local place of worship even if they have never set foot inside a church before.  

Among those opening their doors will be St Wilfrid’s, the only Grade I listed building in Harrogate, St Mary Magdalen’s Leper Chapel in Ripon, and St Andrew’s church at Aldborough, a Grade I listed church founded in the 14th century and built on the site of the Roman forum of Isurium. 

Photo of St Andrew's church at Aldborough, a Grade I listed church founded in the 14th century and built on the site of the Roman forum of Isurium.

The Grade I listed St Andrew’s church at Aldborough was built on the site of the Roman forum of Isurium.

Welcoming the initiative, Stephen Cottrell, the Archbishop of York and president of the YHCT, said: 

“Yorkshire Churches Day is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our county’s churches. At the heart of nearly every one of our communities is a church. They are there to serve and welcome everyone. However you choose to engage with these wonderful buildings, remember, they are not merely places of heritage and history, but vibrant centres of worship and community serving Yorkshire today.” 

Established in 1994, Heritage Open Days is England’s contribution to the European Heritage Days, an initiative launched in 1991 by the Council of Europe and the European Commission to foster public appreciation of Europe’s cultural assets and raise awareness of the need for their care and protection. They are now held annually in September in 50 signatory states to the European Cultural Convention. 

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