Explore Winchester's hidden heritage for free

Press Release: 08/09/2004

Winchester Open Weekend (WOW) returns this weekend allowing curious locals and visitors to peek behind the doors of some of the district's most intriguing buildings - for FREE! The event is co-ordinated by Winchester City Council's tourism service and runs alongside the Civic Trust's annual Heritage Open Days, a scheme which aims to encourage the public to take an interest in the architectural and cultural heritage on their doorstep.

Winchester Tourism has put together a wide selection of buildings to suit all tastes and ages for its fourth successive Winchester Open Weekend. A visit to the Great Hall on Saturday will be well worth the journey as a medieval trial will be in full swing, or visit the combined courts next door where the activities on offer include a chance to see inside the court cells. Also new this year is the opportunity to join a pre-booked tour of the Chesil Rectory where you can learn all about the city's oldest secular building, or visit the Royal Oak and find out if it really is the oldest pub in England.

Winchester Cathedral is also offering its support to the event with a diverse range of activities, tours and demonstrations on the Saturday. If you haven't yet experienced the tower tour it really is worth climbing the many steps for the spectacular view over the city.

Further afield, the historic town of Bishop's Waltham is well worth a visit in its own right as six different buildings will be open to the public. The Parish Council offices on Brook Street - once used to bottle mineral water in the 19th century - will be open to view, as will the town's new museum ahead of its scheduled official opening next spring. You can also take a trip to Shedfield and climb up to the roof of the Old Tower, all that remains of the 'Chapel of Ease'.

Winchester City Council's Special Events Officer, Elaine Robbins, said: "This is the most popular event in Winchester Tourism's calendar and this year there are more buildings than ever taking part. Thanks to the BBC's recent Restoration series, the public's interest in historic buildings is at an all-time high. I hope this weekend will prove to be an inspiration to everyone."

Portfolio Holder for Community Services, Cllr Therese Evans, added: "WOW is a real highlight in the Winchester District's calendar. With free entry to all events, it's a wonderful opportunity for residents to discover the treasures on their doorstep. It also gives visitors a rare chance to look 'behind the scenes' of some of our best-known attractions. We are particularly grateful to the many property owners, Blue Badge Tourist Guides, volunteers and organisations who have given their time to ensure the success of WOW."

Programmes containing complete listings of all events and activities for the weekend are available from the Tourist Information Centre, Guildhall, Broadway, Winchester, SO23 9LJ. Telephone 01962 840500, email tourism@winchester.gov.uk or visit the website at www.visitwinchester.co.uk. Programmes are also available from local Parish Councils.