Explore the untold history of Winchester with Heritage Open Days

Press Release: 05/09/2012

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Explore the untold history of Winchester with Heritage Open Days

Explore the hidden secrets, architecture and culture of Winchester this weekend with FREE access to its fascinating and historic properties as part of Heritage Open Days. From Thursday 6 – Sunday 9 September 2012, guests will have the opportunity to explore buildings that are either not usually open or who are waiving their usual entrance fee.

The following historic buildings will be offering an opportunity to view their interiors for free:

Winchester Military Museums

Visitors will be given the chance to explore this historic site where William the Conqueror built a Royal castle and King Charles II began building a Royal palace in the image of Versailles - a place that was used to house 18th century prisoners-of-war and which today, fittingly, is home to five military museums.

Winchester Military Museums will host tours at 11am and 2:30pm, with Saturday morning’s tour including the chance to meet and hear the story of Denis Avey, author of “The Man who broke into Auschwitz.” Open from 10am – 5pm on Saturday 8 September and Sunday 9 September (Last entry at 4:30pm).

Chesil Theatre

Formerly the church of St Peter upon Chesulle (12th century), the Chesil Theatre is now a 74 seat theatre with a year round programme of productions. This tour provides full access to the auditorium and bar area, as well as the option to ask questions to Winchester Dramatic Society members. Located on Chesil Street, the theatre will be open from 10am – 6pm on Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 September.

St John the Baptist’s Church

This church is Winchester’s oldest parish church and is built in the 12th century and situated on the ancient Pilgrim’s Way between Winchester and Canterbury. Described by Sir John Betjeman as 'a gem', its recent restoration reveals its medieval simplicity and beauty. St John the Baptist’s Church will be open for viewing from 10am – 5pm on Thursday 6 September, Friday 7 September and Sunday the 9 September, and 10-6pm Saturday 8 September.

Theatre Royal Winchester

Guests can join a backstage tour of Theatre Royal Winchester to get insight into the theatre and the challenges that it has met to provide Winchester with almost a century of live theatre. Be spooked by the ghost of the theatre and hear the enchanted tales. The back garden café will be open for teas, coffees, lunches and snacks. The Theatre Royal Winchester will be available for free viewing from 10am-5pm on Saturday 8 September.

Medieval Archer at the Westgate

The Westgate Museum is a medieval fortified gateway with roof top views across the city, a stunning Tudor ceiling, amour and a gibbet, brass rubbing, child size armour and quizzes. A Medieval Archer will visit from 10am – 6pm on Saturday 8 September, for guests to discover what military life was like in the Middle Ages.

Winchester City Mill

The Winchester City Mill is a restored water mill, owned by the National Trust, now in full working order and producing stoneground wholemeal flour. Open from 10am – 5pm on Saturday 8 September and Sunday 9 September (Last entry at 4:30pm).

Winchester Quaker Meeting House Peace Exhibition

The Peace Exhibition is a display of Quaker work during and after World War II, including the Kindertransport and a focus on the Quaker Peace Testimony. There will be the opportunity for guests to look around parts of the listed building, where cream tea will be served. Open from 1:30-5pm Saturday 8 September and Sunday 9 September.

Cllr Rob Humby, Deputy Leader of Winchester City Council and Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Tourism and Strategic planning commented,

We see regularly that there is a real appetite to get out and enjoy the culture and heritage of the District among residents. We’re lucky to have a rich heritage here that makes us a draw for up to 5 million visitors per year and there’s no better excuse to ‘become a tourist in your own town’ than Heritage Open Days. Across the District you also have the opportunity to see Avington Park Gardens; Chawton House Library; Hinton Ampner House and Garden and Hockley Water Mill.”

For more information please visit www.visitwinchester.co.uk

*PLEASE NOTE: Some of the properties are only open on certain days and require pre-booking so please look carefully at the opening times and/or tour times for each venue.

The Heritage Open Days scheme is co-ordinated by English Heritage. Click here for further information and an online events guide or call the dedicated Heritage Open Days team on +44 (0)207 553 9290.