Open days put the spotlight on town’s hidden heritage

Morpeth Chantry Museum.
Morpeth Chantry Museum.

THE hidden heritage of Northumberland will take centre stage next month, and Morpeth is getting ready for a starring role.

Heritage Open Days will return to the county for four days from Thursday, September 6 as part of a national initiative to celebrate the country’s history and culture.

The scheme offers free or discounted entry to thousands of heritage sites, including rare access to private properties, as well as talks, tours and exhibitions.

More than 80 buildings in Northumberland will open up, with activities co-ordinated by the county council.

And in this area, the Greater Morpeth Development Trust is taking the lead in organising a varied programme.

One of the highlights of the weekend will be a showing of Old Morpeth On Film, featuring colour films of the town in the 1940s and 1950s. The screening comes courtesy of the Six Townships History Group and the films have never been shown in public before.

A mini time team will come to Morpeth Chantry as local archeologists Liz Young and Barry Mead entertain with stories of their digging experiences, explain the background to a range of artefacts held by Morpeth Antiquarian Society and try to shed more light on historic objects brought along by the public.

Visitors will be invited to the Mayor’s Parlour and Council Chamber in the Town Hall to view some of the civic treasures, and Collingwood House will open its doors for people to see inside the former home of Admiral Lord Collingwood, with local author Andy Griffin on hand to discuss the Hero of Trafalgar.

The Landmark Trust will open up the Gatehouse of Morpeth Castle, with traditional Northumbrian music provided by Fligarishon, and at nearby Bothal Castle there will be guided tours of the grounds.

Olympic fever will continue with a Sporting Morpeth exhibition, celebrating the town’s sports stars, as well as the Morpeth Olympic Games, which ran from 1870 to 1958.

And there will be a Bowls exhibition to show the history of bowling in the town.

Morpeth’s oldest church of St Mary The Virgin, which is one of best preserved Medieval buildings in Northumberland, will be open to visitors, who can also see the graves of Emily Wilding Davison, Joseph Crawhall and William Woodman in its churchyard, and St James The Great will also throw open its doors.

In Bothal, people can go along to St Andrew’s Church, which has the finest collection of Medieval stained glass in the county.

Local crafts will be on sale and music will be played.

Spinning demonstrations, art workshops to make craft guild costumes and traditional mat-making demonstrations, including the chance to have a go at the art, will also be available in Morpeth.

Outdoor activities include the opportunity to find out more about ‘growing your own’ and self-sufficiency at Tommy’s Field Allotments, as well as to discover who Tommy actually was.

And there will be heritage walks from Wallington to Little Harle Tower, and around Lynemouth and Ellington, to discuss the local history.

Meanwhile, a coach tour will show the heritage of Morpeth, Longhirst, Widdrington and Cresswell.

Other events include a talk on Newminster Abbey, with a handling session of artefacts excavated there, activities at Wallington, and a heritage exhibition along Newgate Street and Oldgate, with businesses showing how shops were in times gone by.

St Mary’s Church in Ponteland and Holy Saviour Church in Milbourne will be open, along with Kirkley Hall, and there will railway and archive film screenings in the area.

County Executive Member for Customer Relations and Culture Neil Bradbury said: “Heritage Open Days provide a chance to catch some of the county’s fascinating buildings and architecture at their finest.

“Northumberland is steeped in history and some of the most remarkable buildings and grounds that are being opened to the public over the weekend date back hundreds of years.

“The event provides a fantastic and free opportunity for people to find out more about the intriguing heritage that is right here on our doorstep. I would encourage people to take advantage and get involved in any capacity they can, be it participation, volunteering or visiting.”

A leaflet giving details of events, locations and opening times is available from libraries, tourist information centres, leisure centres and council information centres, as well as online at www.northumberland.gov.uk/open