4 of the best free Heritage Open Days to discover in Bedfordshire this September

The collection at Shuttleworth.

The collection at Shuttleworth. - Credit: Darren Harbar Photography

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

You can explore the places and spaces on your doorstep at various venues in the county, including free Beds events as varied as visiting the Shuttleworth Collection to exploring a beautiful Victorian Grade II listed cemetery.

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

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

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. 

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!” 

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

Highlights from across Bedfordshire include the following events.

1. Shuttleworth

The collection at Shuttleworth.

The collection at Shuttleworth. - Credit: Darren Harbar Photography

Where: Old Warden Park, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire, SG18 9EP.

Take a relaxing walk around the Swiss Garden and wander along the woodland sculpture trail.

Venture inside Shuttleworth House and admire its grand period rooms.

You can also discover the Shuttleworth Collection, showcasing the best of early aviation, vintage vehicles and Clayton and Shuttleworth industrial heritage.

When: Wednesday, September 15, 10am to 5pm.

Pre-booking: Preferred. Pre-booking is not required, but is recommended to avoid disappointment. Go to https://www.shuttleworth.org/product/heritage-open-day/

2. Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre 

Ridgemont Heritage Station in Bedfordshire.

Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre in Bedfordshire. - Credit: Supplied by Heritage Open Days

Where: Station Road, Ridgmont, Bedfordshire, MK43 0XP.

Learn about the Marston Vale Railway Line, engineered by Robert Stephenson and opened in 1846. It was the first line to reach Bedford.

Visit the award-winning Victorian station house and booking office in the Gothic Cottage Orné style and the Station Master’s Parlour.

When: Friday, September 10; Saturday, September 11; Sunday, September 12; Wednesday, September 15; Thursday, September 16; Friday, September 17; Saturday, September 18; and Sunday, September 19, 10am to 4pm.

Pre-booking: Preferred. Pre-booking may be required. Visit https://www.marstonvalecommunityrail.org.uk for the latest update.

3. John Bunyan Museum

John Bunyan Museum in Bedfordshire.

John Bunyan Museum in Bedfordshire. - Credit: John Bunyan Museum & Library

Where: John Bunyan Museum, Bunyan Meeting, Mill Street, Bedford, Bedfordshire, MK40 3EU.

John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim's Progress, is one of Bedford's most famous sons.

Join John Bunyan Museum and Library in person and online in a special celebration of Edible England for Heritage Open Days 2021.

On Saturday, September 18, there will be family activity trail of 'edible' history around the main museum, a handling session with 17th century objects about dining in John Bunyan's day, usually only available to paid groups, and a demonstration of recipes made during Bunyan's day, especially for the Edible England theme.

When: Saturday, September 18, 11am to 4pm.

Pre-booking: No booking required.

4. St Mary the Virgin Church, Eaton Bray

Where: St Mary's Church, High Street, Eaton Bray, Bedfordshire, LU6 2DP.

Come and enjoy this beautiful 800-year-old building. 

Tying in with Heritage Open Days' theme this year, you can learn all about Bedfordshire Clangers and Aylesbury prunes, a lucrative crop in their day. Recipes will be available to take away.

If you're feeling adventurous, try the church's picture quiz or bring young ones along for the churchyard trail. 

When: Saturday, September 11, 2pm to 5pm. 

Pre-booking: No booking required.

For the latest Heritage Open Days events, visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk