St Albans watchdog slams reduced support for Heritage Open Days

Rob Crisp explains to visitors how the signal box used to work

Rob Crisp explains to visitors how the signal box used to work - Credit: Archant

A decision by the district council to reduce support for Heritage Open Days in St Albans has been labelled as “bizarre” by members of a local watchdog group.

But tourist and heritage attractions are refusing to be deterred from opening their doors to the public for the 20th anniversary of the annual event, a national scheme which celebrates England’s architecture and culture.

St Albans district council decided a few months ago to cut back on publicity for local attractions taking part in the celebration of heritage sites, explaining that it was keen to put resources elsewhere.

As far as leisure and culture goes, the council’s focus has now changed to deliver fewer large-scale events, boosted by special one-off events such as the Magna Carta in 2015.

With Heritage Open Days in September, and Residents First Weekend in January deemed similar events, the council has decided to channel more effort in to promoting the latter.

But this has irked Eric Roberts, of St Albans Civic Society, who criticised the move as “bizarre for a city as big as St Albans”.

He added: “Their visitors’ strategy is bizarre; you have to be dynamic. People should be jumping up and down about this because we have a new hotel opening in St Peter’s Street in a few weeks, and this event promotes our heritage.

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“It could have been sponsored – I think the council is letting St Albans down.”

The country-wide event offers places not normally open to the public to welcome visitors, or places that usually charge a fee, have free entry.

Fellow society member Jill Singer, who opens the historic Clock Tower for the event, said: “It’s puzzling, as it is the 20th anniversary of Heritage Open Days and the council has been fantastic with their support in the past.

“I can understand that money is tight, but it’s ironic that they are putting money into other tourism events.”

Jill is concerned that people might not be aware that 12 local places or events have been registered to take part in the open days, which ends on September 14.

A council representative said Heritage Open Days are being promoted on two websites, and via the Tourist Information Centre.

The event also featured in the June issue of the council’s Community News, a quarterly newsletter delivered to homes throughout the district.

For more information on what’s happening locally for Heritage Open Days visit or