THIS year, Heritage Open Days – a chance to peek through doors and into spaces not normally open to the public – is celebrating its 25th anniversary with ten days of free events.

With support from the National Trust and the People’s Postcode Lottery, England’s biggest festival of history and culture offers visitors across the region the opportunity to enjoy family days out, explore and learn more about the heritage on their doorstep. In 2018, 5,500 events welcomed more than three million visitors across the country.

In the North-East places taking part include the beautiful 18th century Aske Hall, in Richmond; The Ruin, a romantic pavilion at Grewelthorpe, near Ripon; the medieval Kepier Hospital and Loggia at Durham; Durham County Record Office; the Grade II listed 'Pitman's Parliament' at Redhills; You can also see and hear the only remaining mighty Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ in the region at the New Victoria Centre, Howden le Wear, and watch stonemasons give a demonstration of their art at Durham Cathedral. There's no end of places to visit and things to see.

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A special programme of People Power events will also highlight communities, groups and individuals - both contemporary and from history - who have affected positive change; buildings saved, greenspaces created, friendships forged, campaigns fought and voices heard.

As part of this, Heritage Open Days is working with the founder of the global Craftivist Collective, Sarah Corbett, to explore positive change through Craftivism, a form of ‘gentle protest’ combining craft and activism. At a series of free Craftivism workshops across the country, she will offer participants the chance to hand-stitch their positive visions for the future onto fabric ‘dream clouds’, to hang in meaningful locations and share on social media. Each workshop will take inspiration from change-makers of the past, and at Durham the focus is on The Durham Miners’ Association, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary.

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The DMA was founded by a group of 19th century progressive, liberal Methodists who were determined to overcome the cruelties and brutality of Victorian coal mine owners, building homes for elderly mineworkers, providing hospital care and sick pay for those in need, and creating education programmes for the young. The County Durham workshop will be held at Redhills - a 1915 purpose-built trade union building for the DMA – on Saturday, 21st September. See website for booking details.

NEW FOR 2019

Inspiring Public Art, NVCP and North Tyneside Council, Tyne and Wear

Celebrate North Tyneside's public art heritage with a performance of songs, poems and interesting facts about the borough's public art. Visitors can also pick up a copy of a newly published book highlighting some of the key installations in the borough. Fri 13th, 10.30am-12pm

Film Screening: Sunderland, The Way We Were, Sunderland

Join a night of nostalgia, combining music, film and photographs of Sunderland over the years. A special compilation of footage will take visitors back to summers at Seaburn in the 1950s, shopping in Blacketts and watching the FA Cup wins at Roker Park. Tues 17th, 7pm

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Middleton in Bloom, County Durham

Look around this village and admire gold-award winning flower displays, created and maintained by local people power. Visitors can also take part in craft activities, help create a Middleton in Bloom banner, and meet the community group whose designs wowed judges last year. All festival dates, 10am-4pm

Collections Showcase, Newcastle University Library Archives, Newcastle

Meet the Special Collections and Archives team and discover people power treasures from the storeroom. Visitors will learn about issues including the fight for women’s rights, campaigning for homosexual equality, student marches, and speeches on human rights. Thur 19th, 1pm-4pm

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Thorpe Light Railway, Whorlton, County Durham

Volunteers will be on hand to talk to visitors about the history of the attraction and the group's aim to fully restore this historic miniature railway. Subject to a locomotive being in service, visitors will also be invited to ride on the railway which is approx. 800 metres long. Saturday 14th, 12-4pm.

Durham Bat Walk

Join Durham Wildlife Trust at Low Barns Nature Reserve, Witton le Wear, to hear about the history of the reserve and go bat-spotting. Book your place online at

Sept 13-15

Cragside, National Trust, Northumberland

Discover the world of a Victorian inventor. Crammed full of ingenious gadgets, kids will love exploring this extraordinary house. The family can then head outside for fun in the play area, and try to find their way through the rhododendron forest tunnels of Nelly's Labyrinth. Thur 19th, 10am-5pm

Bailiffgate Museum & Gallery, Alnwick

Go back in time, with the chance to dress up in Edwardian school clothes and take selfies in Border Reiver armour. Other interactive exhibits will let children crawl through a coal mine, and take part in a trail to find the museum's mice mascots. Sat 21st, 10am-4pm

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The Market Cross, Barnard Castle

The Market Cross or 'Butter Mart' is a Grade 1 Listed building built by Thomas Breaks and given to the town in 1747. The upper level is closed to the public, but has recently undergone some refurbishment. Since 1747, it has been used as a fire station, town hall, court house and 'lock up'. The floor area was used for the selling of produce and dairy goods (so the name 'Butter Mart'). Saturday 14th and 20th, 10am, 11am, 12pm. Booking required: 03000-262626.

Durham Crematorium

Opened in 1960, designed by JP Chaplin. This is a rare chance to see behind the scenes, learn about cremation and view this rich and beautifully detailed building and its grounds. Tours Thurs 19th to Sat 22nd, various times. To book call 03000-.262626

Royal Northumberland Yacht Club, Friends of LV50, Blyth

Discover what living conditions were like 140 years ago on board a lightship; a floating version of a lighthouse. Visitors during the festival can take an above-and-below deck tour of Light Vessel 50. Fri 13th-Sat 14th, Thurs 19th-Sat 21st, 10am-4pm (12pm on Saturdays)


The Glass House Redevelopment, Bright Blue Studio, North Shields

Take a tour of this newly redeveloped private building and its modern glass gallery. Led by the architect, visitors will explore all floors to see how new spaces and technologies have been integrated with the fabric and meaning of the original 17th century fort and later smokehouse. Sat 21st, 10am-3pm

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