VISITORS to an historic building this weekend will be able to tour its grounds and parts not normally open to the public.

Those visiting Elm Ridge on Saturday and Sunday will also be able to meet some characters from the past, including the butler, the governess and a laundry maid, and see and hear about the ingenious way in which, almost a century ago, a methodist church was created within the confines of the original building, enabled by a benevolent donation.

Other features include a display of historic maps, photographs and information, and an opportunity to enjoy the extensive tree lined grounds.

Refreshments, croquet, shoe polishing, a treasure-hunt and other activities for children will be available.

Children, accompanied by adults, are invited to come in Victorian dress and to bring a pair of shoes to polish.

The building will be open from 10am to 1pm on Saturday, with guided tours at 10.15am, 11am and 11.45am. On Sunday, it will be open from 2pm to 5pm, with tours at 2.15pm, 3pm and 3.45pm.

Christine Kent, event organiser of the open days at Elm Ridge Methodist Church, said: “We are delighted to be able to participate in this year’s Heritage Open Days programme as part of our Grounds for Inspiration initiative to make the grounds and building available for more community use.”

“In keeping with this year’s national Heritage Open Days theme of “People Power,” we celebrate the vision and boldness of George and Ada Harroway in the 1920s who foresaw a community need on the very edge of Darlington in advance of new housing development, and who took the risk of purchasing one of Darlington’s finest houses to make it available for the developing community.”

“We are pleased to be able to showcase the former house at Elm Ridge as an example of the work of GG Hoskins, Darlington’s most famous architect, whose other buildings include the Darlington Library and Middlesbrough Town Hall."

The house at Elm Ridge was designed by GG Hoskins and built in 1867 as a grand home for members of the Pease family. When it was put up for sale in 1928 it was bought by George and Ada Harroway, who perceived the need for a new church on the edge of the growing town.