Guide to Norfolk Heritage Open Days 2023

by Anisa // 0 Comments
the 2023 heritage open days booklet with a blurred Pull's Ferry in the background

With all the events happening as part of Norfolk Heritage Open Days it is easy to get overwhelmed or miss out on the best ones. I have gone through all the information, so that you don’t have to. In this post I will share more information about Norfolk Heritage Open Days 2023 and recommended events.

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What is Norfolk Heritage Open Days?

Norfolk Heritage Open Days is part of a national festival of history and culture. It gives everyone free access to experiences and events where you can visit heritage sites, discover hidden gems not normally open to the public, and learn more about the culture and history in our communities.

When is Norfolk Heritage Open Days for 2023?

The festival runs from 8 to 17 September 2023.

What is the theme for Norfolk Heritage Open Days 2023?

For the 2023 Norfolk Heritage Open Days festival the theme is “Creativity Unwrapped.” There will be some activities celebrating England’s colourful history of creativity in addition to the typical Heritage Open Days events.

Is Norfolk Heritage Open Days good for kids?

Yes. There are many family-friendly events and attractions included in the programme. If you need more ideas, check out our recommendations for the best things to do in Norfolk with kids.

Do you need to book Norfolk Heritage Open Days events in advance?

While there are some drop-in events, other events do need to be booked. Bookings open at 10:00 on 21 August. Some events can be booked through the Heritage Open Days website while others you need to book directly with the venue.

The Best Norfolk Heritage Open Day Events

With all the special events happening around the county for Norfolk Heritage Open Days, it wasn’t easy choosing a few to highlight. I focused on places that aren’t normally open to the public or are offering something a bit different.

Some Norfolk museums and other attractions will have certain times when you can visit for free and attend special talks during the festival. If you want to find out about more events and openings, you can find a complete list here.

To help you plan, I have organized the list by area. Don’t forget to book early (but after 10:00 21 August) for those events that require it.

Best Norwich Heritage Open Day Events

Not surprisingly, Norwich has the bulk of events for Heritage Open Days. With more than 100 events happening, I could only fit a few in this post but you can find the entire list here.

Earlham Hall Tour

When: 10 & 17 September 10:00, 11:30, & 14:00

Tour guide Nigel Wimhurst will take you through the Grade-II listed 17th and 18th century house and thell you more about some of its former residents, Elizabeth Fry and the Gurney Family. This tour needs to be booked in advance here.

Norwich Guildhall Tour

When: 8 & 16 September 11:00 & 14:00

exterior of the guildhall with impressive flint work
The Guildhall is one of Norwich’s most iconic buildings.

Tour the largest surviving medieval civil building in the country outside of London and see the 14th century undercroft, police cells, Victorian courtroom, and more. You need to book the tour in advance here.

Note: While they do offer Guildhall tours at other times throughout the year, it often sells out far it advance. To get an idea of what to expect read about the Norwich Guildhall tour we did during the 2022 Norfolk & Norwich Festival.

Bishop’s House Garden

When: 12 & 13 September, 10:00 – 16:00

bishop garden wall with view of Norwich cathedral behind it
This garden has a history going back to when Norwich Cathedral was founded.

Only open to the public on select days, you can explore this secret garden in the centre of Norwich. Read more about what you can see at the Bishop’s House Garden.

Norwich School

When: 11, 13, 15 September times vary

You have the opportunity to venture inside the historic air raid shelter which is located under the school playground. Book in advance here.

The Strangers Club

When: 17 September 10:00 – 16:00

inside the strangers club, a red room with period furniture and wooden beams on the roof
You can feel the history inside the building that houses The Strangers Club.

The Stranger’s Club is an exclusive organization for men that was founded in 1927. This is a rare opportunity to go inside the 16th century building (which is one of the most haunted places in Norwich) on Elm Hill where they are based. No need to book in advance just turn up.

Sainsbury Centre

When: 8 & 15 September 14:00 and 15:00

sainsbury centre in Norwich
Inside this iconic building, you will find one of the most impressive art collections outside of the national institutions.

Go on a tour with the Head of Technical Services where you get to see parts of the Norman Foster designed building that are not normally open to the public. You need to book in advance by phone.

The Norfolk Club

When: 12 September 10:00, 11:00, 15:00, 16:00

Explore the 250 year old private members club housed in a Georgian building that used to be a home, bank, and school. Book in advance by email.

Sounds of Ye Underground

When: 11 & 12 September various times

You can learn about the history of music in Norwich while visiting the remains of a hidden medieval street. It’s a bit different than the normal hidden street tours that the Shoebox Experiences do. Book in advance here.

Best Great Yarmouth Heritage Open Day Events

Anna Sewell House

When: 8, 13, 15 September 10:00 – 14:00

Go inside the house where Anna Sewell the author of Black Beauty was born. Learn about the history of the building and the famous novel. No need to book in advance just turn up.

Great Yarmouth Minster Bell Tower

When: 15 & 16 September 10:00 – 14:00, 17 September 12:00 – 14:00

See an special exhibition of ecclesiastical silverware rarely showcased to the public, and ascend the majestic bell tower to behold a magnificent collection of twelve bells, renowned as one of the most exceptional in all of East Anglia. No need to book in advance just turn up.

Royal Naval Hospital Open Doors

When: 9 & 10 September 10:30 to 15:30

Go inside this Grade-II listed building finished in the early 19th century where the sick and wounded from the Royal Navy’s North Sea Fleet were treated. It is now private residential property. No need to book in advance just turn up.

Best Kings Lynn & West Norfolk Heritage Open Day Events

King’s Lynn Heritage Open Day

When: 10 September 10:00 – 16:00

You can visit houses, offices, gardens, churches, chapels, towers and tunnels in King’s Lynn that are not normally open to the public. Look out for colourful re-enactors, children’s activities, music, dancing, miniature trains, boats, and classic cars. There will also be a free vintage bus to make getting around easier.

Get more details of what will be open here.

Hunstanton Lighthouse Tour

When: 8 & 15 September times vary

The lighthouse tour will take you to the dungeon and the top of the tower where you will have views over the Wash and Hunstanton. Book by email.

Old Hunstanton Hall

When: 14 September 11:00 and 14:00

Explore the grounds of Old Hunstanton Hall (which has now been subdivided into apartments) and marvel at the exquisite Grade I listed church. Book in advance by email.

Best North Norfolk Heritage Open Day Events

Sheringham Masonic Centre

When: 16 September 10:00-16:00

Go inside a Masonic Lodge in Sheringham that is not normally open to the public. Guides will be onsite to answer questions about the building and Freemasonry in general. No need to book in advance just turn up.

Cromer Signal Box

When: 8 & 9 September 10:30 – 15:30

Look inside this Grade-ll listed signal box in Cromer where you can see a working mechanical lever frame and operate it. There is also a collection of railway memorabilia to view. Unfortunately there are steps to access so it is not suitable for wheelchair users. The closest parking is at Argos. No need to book in advance just turn up.

RELATED: Discover Norfolk Steam Railways

Best South Norfolk Heritage Open Day Events

Wymondham Vintage Day

When: 17 September 11:00 – 16:00

Embark on a captivating journey through the rich history of Wymondham, meander through classic car displays and market stalls, uncover the secrets of heritage land management techniques, and enjoy picnics along the serene banks of the River Tiffey. Scheduled tours of the town will be available, and you are warmly encouraged to embrace the spirit of the event by dressing in the attire of your preferred era.

Raveningham Hall Tour

When: 8 & 9 September 10:00, 12:00, & 14:00

Go on a short tour of the public rooms at Raveningham Hall led by the owner Sir Nicholas Bacon. You will also get to see some of the art collection. You will need to book in advance by email.

Behind the Scenes at Diss Corn Hall

When: 8, 14, & 15 September 10:30 and 12:00

Get a behind-the-scenes look at this award-winning venue. Learn about the history of the building and see parts not normally open to the public. You will need to book in advance by email.

Best Broadland Heritage Open Day Events

RAF Coltishall Heritage Centre

When: 9, 14 & 17 September 10:00, 12:00 & 14:00

Don’t miss this extraordinary chance to visit the centre and join a guided convoy tour of the renowned former RAF station in your own vehicle. Along the way, you’ll make stops at numerous significant sites of this historic Battle of Britain station. Book in advance here.

Hathor Pleasure Wherry

When: 8 – 12 & 14 – 16 September 10:00 – 16:00

Go inside the famous wherry built for the Colman family in 1905 at How Hill. No need to book in advance just turn up.

Norfolk Wherry Maud

When: 16 September 10:00 – 17:00

Step abroad this wherry that was built in 1899 on the banks of the River Yare at Reedham. It will be moored at How Hill and there will also be a pop-up museum with photos of working wherries and the Maud’s restoration. No need to book in advance just turn up.

Wherry Albion

When: 16 & 17 September 10:00 – 15:00

Visit the Albion, one of only two black-sailed trading wherries still afloat, in Ludham. No need to book in advance just turn up. If you can’t see the Albion during Heritage Open Days, you could go on one of their Broads boat tours offered only on a few select days.

Best Breckland Heritage Open Day Events

Former Atomic Weapons Bunker Tour

When: 10 & 11 September 10:00 and 13:00

Tour this Scheduled Monument of the Cold War and see where the Atom Bombs Blue Danube and Red Beard were kept in the late 50s and 60s. Then you can climb up the 25 foot watchtower, if you like. This event needs to be pre-booked here.

Narborough Bone Mill

When: 16 – 17 September 11:00 – 16:00

Take a guided tour of the only bone mill in Norfolk where substantial workings remain. You will see a 16′ waterwheel and original brick floors along with other finds uncovered during excavations. No need to book in advance just turn up.

Our Country’s Good and Shakespeare’s The Tempest

When: 16 & 17 September 11:00 and 14:00

Enjoy two historic performances in Thetford Marketplace that fit well with the history of the town. Each performance includes both shows and an interval. Our Country’s Good looks at prison life in the 1700s and features the Guildhall’s own Henry Kable along with other historic figures who were tried there.

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