13 of the best free Heritage Open Days to explore in Hertfordshire this September

There are lots of free Heritage Open Days to discover in Hertfordshire this September.

There are lots of free Heritage Open Days to discover in Hertfordshire this September. - Credit: Heritage Open Days

Free Heritage Open Days are back! England's largest festival of history and culture is returning in September.

You can explore the places and spaces on your doorstep at various venues in Hertfordshire, including events as varied as a free medieval cookery demonstration at Berkhamsted Castle to visiting a working watercress bed.

Berkhamsted Castle.

Berkhamsted Castle. - Credit: Supplied by Heritage Open Days

Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, residents and visitors will be able to try new experiences across the region between September 10 to September 19, 2021.

Many events will explore this year’s theme of Edible England, offering opportunities to learn about food production, celebrate local specialities and uncover the customs and quirks around what we eat and drink. 

Sarah Holloway, programme manager for Heritage Open Days, said: “We’re all interested in where we live but we don’t necessarily know the stories behind the buildings and spaces we walk past each day.

"Our event organisers keep finding creative ways to tell these tales and keep them alive. 

"HODs connects people through shared experiences and this year, that feels more important than ever. It’s also one of the reasons we chose Edible England as our theme. Food brings people together and what we eat and drink is at the heart of much of our culture, our history, our communities, and our daily lives.” 

Most Read

Every single Heritage Open Days event is free, including access to many sites that usually charge for admission.

Laura Chow, head of charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “We’re delighted our players are able to continue to support Heritage Open Days in 2021.

"The festival has always been about bringing communities together, and this year we’re particularly excited to see how this can be done through food and drink events. It’s certainly a tasty theme!” 

Heritage Open Days is coordinated and promoted nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

Highlights from across Hertfordshire include the following 13 events.


1. St Peter's Church, Ayot St Peter

St Peter's Church in Ayot St Peter, Hertfordshire.

St Peter's Church in Ayot St Peter, Hertfordshire. - Credit: Supplied by Heritage Open Days

Where: Ayot St Peter Road, Welwyn, Hertfordshire, AL6 9BG.

An exceptionally complete and beautifully preserved Grade II listed Victorian Arts and Crafts church, St Peter's will be decorated with flowers and produce for the Harvest Festival, which takes place the following day at 11.15am.

When: Saturday, September 11, 10am to 5pm.

Pre-booking: No booking required.


2. Picnic like a Victorian in Rectory Lane Cemetery

Rectory Lane Cemetery is one of the Heritage Open Days available in Hertfordshire.

Rectory Lane Cemetery is one of the Heritage Open Days available in Hertfordshire. - Credit: Supplied by Heritage Open Days

Where: Rectory Lane Cemetery, Rectory Lane, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 2DH.

Picnic with your family in the restored gardenesque Rectory Lane Cemetery.

Channel your inner Mrs Beeton and prepare a wicker basket of watercress or fruit sandwiches, pigeon pie and steamed pudding and ale at this unique celebration of al fresco dining.

When: Sunday, September 12, 11am to 4pm.

Pre-booking: Required. Main site is open to explore but a free place at the picnic and activities must be pre-booked.


3. St Albans Signal Box

The repainted St Albans South Signal Box has reopened to the public

The repainted St Albans South Signal Box has reopened to the public - Credit: St Albans Signal Box Preservation Trust

Where: St Albans Signal Box, Ridgemont Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL13AG.

See this restored Victorian signal box and garden with displays of signalling and signals.

The lower part of the signal box is a museum full of rail artefacts.

Within the signalman's garden is a garden railway with Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends running between the flower beds.

When: Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12, 10am to 5pm.

Pre-booking: No booking required.


   

4. Mill Green Museum & Mill

Mill Green Museum and Mill.

Mill Green Museum and Mill. - Credit: Tony Prezio, Hitchin TV

Where: Mill Green Museum & Mill, Mill Green, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, AL9 5PD.

Join Welwyn Hatfield Museum Service as it look back at over a thousand years of English food and history at the site of a working watermill.

Explore the Edible England digital trail which reveals recipes from important eras of the mill’s history. Craft your own bouquet garni, discover the mill's timeline of recipes, and take home some freshly milled flour.

There's free admission to the museum and mill for visitors to explore the galleries and grounds. You will be able to see the 18th century restored water powered mill in action while learning about local history and food.

When: Sunday, September 12, 2pm to 5pm, drop in.

Pre-booking: No booking required.


5. St Albans Clock Tower

St Albans Clock Tower.

St Albans Clock Tower. - Credit: Alan Davies

Where: The Clock Tower, Market Place, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 5DR.

Climb the 93 steps of the narrow spiral stone staircase to the top of the only medieval town belfry in England.

From the top, you can enjoy the magnificent views of the Cathedral, the historic city of St Albans, and the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

When: Saturday, September 18 and Sunday, September 19, 10.30am to 5pm.

Pre-booking: No booking required.

St Albans Clock Tower.

St Albans Clock Tower. - Credit: SAHAAS


6. Verulamium Museum

Verulamium Museum in St Albans.

Verulamium Museum in St Albans. - Credit: Alan Davies

Where: Verulamium Museum, St Michaels Street, St. Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 4SW.

Built on the site of one of the largest Roman cities in Britain, Verulamium Museum is filled with ancient treasures and some of the finest mosaics outside of the Mediterranean.

You can also see recent discoveries such as the Sandridge Hoard, a collection of 159 Roman gold coins.

When: Saturday, September 11 and Saturday, September 18, 11am to 3.30pm (last admission at 3pm).

Pre-booking: No booking required.


7. BFI Film & Television Archive Open Day

Where: BFI National Archive, Kingshill Way, Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, HP4 3TP.

See the specialist skills, technology and vaults preserving the film and TV heritage of the nation.

Watch technical demonstrations detailing video preservation and film conservation, join a mini-tour of one of the huge film vaults storing some of the collection, and listen to talks from curators.

When: Sunday, September 12, 10.30am to 4pm.

Pre-booking: Required.


8. Hertford Castle Heritage Day

Hertford Castle will be hosting a Christmas Trail in December. Picture: Black Kite Productions

Hertford Castle will be hosting a Christmas Trail in December. Picture: Black Kite Productions - Credit: Black Kite Productions

Where: Hertford Castle, Hertford, Hertfordshire, SG14 1HR.

In conjunction with the National Heritage Weekend programme, the castle lawn will host medieval encampments, historical information stalls and birds of prey.

You will have the opportunity to be a real-life Viking wielding the bow and arrow at the archery workshop.

The performance arena will return with a programme that’ll have you at the edge of your seat; hosting Viking battles, re-enactments, storytelling, and falconry displays.

Visitors can also tour Hertford Castle itself.

When: Sunday, September 12. Tours available throughout the day. 

Pre-booking: Preferred. Main site is free to explore. Pre-booking of tours is advised.


9. St Mary Magdalene Church, Caldecote

The Church of St Mary Magdalene in Caldecote.

The church in Caldecote. - Credit: Archant

Where: The Church of St Mary Magdalene, Caldecote, Baldock, Hertfordshire, SG7 5LE.

Explore this diminutive medieval church in a deserted medieval village, bearing interesting graffiti.

The Church of St Mary Magdalene, Caldecote, was taken on by the Friends of Friendless Churches in 1982 after a declaration of redundancy.

The church is listed Grade II* and dates from the 14th and 15th centuries. Special features include a crocketed stoup and a memorial to the 1st Viscount Caldecote.

When: Friday, September 10 to Sunday, September 19, 9am to 5pm.

Pre-booking: No booking required.


10. Rothamsted Manor 

Rothamsted Manor in Harpenden.

Rothamsted Manor in Harpenden. - Credit: Supplied.

Where: Rothamsted Manor House, Rothamsted Estate, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, AL5 2BG.

Visitors can enjoy self-guided tours of the Grade I Jacobean manor house and gardens, cream teas, 16th century murals, free lawn games, science activities and cookery demo, local stallholders, and a scavenger hunt.

When: On selected days between Saturday, September 11 to Sunday, September 19, 10am to 5pm.

Pre-booking: Cream teas in the historic library, booking required. Visit www.rothamstedenterprises.com to book.

Rothamsted Manor House in Harpenden.

Rothamsted Manor House in Harpenden. - Credit: Supplied by Heritage Open Days


11. Codicote Village Museum

Where: 145-149 High Street, Codicote, Hertfordshire, SG4 8UB.

Hidden away behind the village hall in the High Street, this Edwardian timber and corrugated iron men’s club has been lovingly restored and converted into a community museum by Codicote Local History Society, and is only open a few days each year.

When: Sunday, September 19, 2pm to 5pm.

Pre-booking: No booking required.


12. Kingsbury Barn pottery exhibition

Kingsbury Barn in St Albans, Hertfordshire

Dacorum and Chiltern Potters Guild will be promoting all forms of pottery at Kingsbury Barn as part of Heritage Open Days 2021. - Credit: Supplied by Dacorum and Chiltern Potters Guild

Where: Kingsbury Barn, Branch Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire, AL3 4SE.

A pottery exhibition displayed in the beautiful setting of the medieval Kingsbury Barn.

Twenty ceramic artists from the Dacorum and Chiltern Potters Guild will showcase a wide range of functional and decorative ceramics and sculptural forms.

Artists will be on hand to talk about their work and the processes involved in their creations.

When: Friday, September 10 to Sunday, September 12, 10am to 4pm.

Pre-booking: No booking required.

Kingsbury Barn in St Albans, Hertfordshire

Dacorum and Chiltern Potters Guild will be promoting all forms of pottery at Kingsbury Barn in Branch Road, St Albans as part of Heritage Open Days 2021. - Credit: Supplied by Dacorum and Chiltern Potters Guild


13. Visit to working watercress beds

Where: Camelot Rugby Club, Chaulden Lane, Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, HP1 2BS.

Take advantage of a rare opportunity to see working watercress beds.

A familiar sight many years ago, you’ll learn more about the growing process on a guided tour, or you can make your own way around the site.

When: Sunday, September 19, 11am to 2pm.

Pre-booking: Required.


Full event listings are available at www.heritageopendays.org.uk. Search by location or use the map function to discover what else is happening in your local area.

To ensure that visitors are safe and that events can keep to the latest government guidelines, all event details are subject to change. Visitors should re-check details on the HODs website before confirming plans nearer the time.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter