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Heritage Open Days


England's history, architecture and culture is celebrated when buildings of every age, style and function open their doors for free for the annual Heritage Open Days. This year's event runs from Friday 8 September to Sunday 17 September 2023.

This is a national event that celebrates England's fantastic architectural and cultural sites. Visit Heritage Open Days for more information.

Before heading out for your Heritage Open Day, please check their website for changes and cancellations of events and if you or a member of your household are unwell with symptoms of Covid-19, please do not attend any events.

Dates of the event

The event runs every September. This year's dates are Friday 8 September to Sunday 17 September 2023.

Discover hidden architectural treasures and enjoy a wide range of tours, events and activities which bring to life local history and culture:

  • free entry to venues that usually charge
  • tours that give glimpses into hidden places - many of which are virtual this year
  • walks through our historic landscape - with evidence of settlement from pre-history to the modern day
  • churches - from Saxon to Medieval to Victorian in County Durham
  • talk to knowledgeable and enthusiastic volunteers who guide you round the venue

Here is a full list of attractions taking place: 

A fascinating insight into Durham Masonic Hall

36 Old Elvet, Durham, DH13HN

Come and see where Freemasons have practiced their craft since 1870.

  • Saturday 9 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm
  • Sunday 17 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm

Booking required.

Contact: Anthony Turfrey, membership officer 07756401226

Chapel of St Mary the Less   

South Bailey, Durham, DH13RJ

The 12th century chapel will be open for visitors to take their time and explore the chapel interior and its garden. Self-guide tour material will be available.

Tuesday 12 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm

No booking required.

Contact: Kate Fox Robinson 0191 3343500

Church of Our Lady of Mercy and St. Godric 

2 Castle Chare, Durham, DH1 4RA                                                         

St. Godric's Grade II listed church was designed by Edward Pugin. Opened in 1864 it has beautiful examples of Victorian stained glass and a fine high altar.

Friday 8 September, Saturday 9 September, Thursday 14 September, Friday 15 September and Saturday 16 September from 11.00am to 2.00pm. 

No booking required.

Contact: Kathleen Murray 07759 130837

Crime and Punishment in Durham through the ages

Kaur, 11 Market Place, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3NE

A meandering walk through Durham City which will take in key locations of Crime and Punishment, how the powerful Prince Bishops adjudicated their County and descriptions of notable characters of crime such as Jimmy Allen and Mary Ann Cotton.

Monday 11 September from 3.00pm to 4.00pm

Booking preferred. 

Contact Ken Bradshaw 07591 468066, kenlm@phonecoop.coop

Curator's Tour of the Museum of Archaeology   

Palace Green, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3RN

Join the Curator of the Museum of Archaeology for a guided tour of our temporary exhibition exploring the Prehistoric and Roman history of Durham.

Saturday 16 September from 10.30am to 11.30am and 12.30pm to 1.30pm.

No booking required.

Durham Castle - Free Guided Tours

Durham Castle, Palace Green, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3RW

Take a tour of Durham Castle.

Sitting at the heart of Durham's World Heritage Site and occupied continuously since the 11th century, the Castle is now home to the students of  University College, part of Durham University.

Sunday 17 September, times to be confirmed. 

No booking required.

Durham Castle: Self-Guided Day    

Masters House, The Castle, Palace Green, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3RL

A self-guided visit to Durham Castle to enjoy the historic and beautiful surroundings at your own pace. Activities for children, games and dressing up to be provided in the Great Hall.

Sunday 10 September from 11.00am to 3.00pm

No booking required.

Durham Cathedral - Chapter House and Prison Cell

Durham Cathedral, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3EH 

Hear the history of Durham Cathedral's Chapter House and enter its monastic prison cell.

Monday 11 September, Wednesday 13 September and Friday 15 September at 11.30am

No booking required.

Durham Cathedral - William Hamilton and the Fields of Fire   

Durham Cathedral, Durham DH1 3EH

A talk on the life and works of William Hamilton, 18th century volcano explorer.

  • Tuesday 12 September from 1.30pm to 2.00pm
  • Friday 15 September from 1.30pm to 2.00pm

Booking preferred. Book here for Durham Cathedral Fields of Fire

Durham Cathedral Museum     

Durham Cathedral, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3EH  

Durham Cathedral Museum will be open for free for one day only.

Come and explore free.

Inside you will find the relics of St. Cuthbert which includes the iconic Pectoral Cross, his 7th century oak coffin and the sword that inspired Lewis Carroll to write Jabberwocky.

Booking preferred: Book here for Durham Cathedral Museum

Durham City Highlight tour NEW

Kauri, 11 Market Place, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3NE

Ken Bradshaw, experienced Blue Badge Tour Guide, will give a free one hour guided tour of medieval heart of Durham City looking at its buildings, people and history.

Monday 11 September from 1.00pm to 2.00pm 

Booking preferred. 

Contact Ken Bradshaw 07591 468066, kenlm@phonecoop.coop

Durham Crematorium   

Blaidwood, South Road, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3TQ

A rare chance to see behind the scenes, learn about cremation and view this rich and beautifully detailed building and its grounds.

  • Thursday 14 September and Friday 15 September at 4.00pm
  • Saturday 16 September at 9.30am    

Booking preferred.

Contact Kayleigh 03000 264008.

Durham School Tour and Durham School Chapel 

Durham School, Durham, County Durham, DH1 4SZ

Explore the school's 600 year history.

Sunday 10 September from 2.00pm to 3.30pm 

Booking preferred.

Contact: Debbie Bennett Events Manager 07852 32540, d.bennett@dcsf.org.uk

Durham Town Hall    

Durham Town Hall, Market Place, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3NJ

Discover a hidden gem of a building at the heart of civic life in Durham city since the 14th century.

Friday 8 September and Saturday 9 September. Guided tours 11.00am to 12.00noon and 1.00pm to 2.00pm. Self-led visits from 10.00am to 3.00pm.

No booking required.

Durham World Heritage Site Guided Tour

Palace Green Library Museum, Palace Green, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3RN

Walking tour of the Durham UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Tour led by Blue Badge guide, Jan Williams.

Durham World Heritage Site is in the North East of England,  inscribed on the World Heritage List by UNESCO in 1986. It consists of Durham Cathedral, Durham Castle and the buildings located between them.

  • Monday 11 September from 10.00am to noon
  • Friday 15 September from 2.00pm to 4.00pm

No booking required.

Family-friendly Touch Tour at the Oriental Museum  

The Oriental Museum, Durham University, Elvet Hill, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3TH

Join us for a family friendly object handling session at the Oriental Museum.

Participants will be able to get hands on with museum objects and hear the fascinating stories behind them. Suitable for children aged 7 and over. All children must be accompanied by an adult.

Saturday 9 September from 1.00pm to 2.30pm 

Booking required. Each ticket is for one adult and one child. Book here for the Oriental Museum Touch Tour.

Kepier hospital and loggia

Kepier Farm, Kepier Lane, Durham, County Durham, DH1 1LB

Guided tour with Martin Roberts of the Grade I and II  listed buildings and scheduled ancient monument of the medieval hospital at Kepier, once the richest in County Durham.

Saturday 16 September at 10.30am

Booking required.

Contact: Visit County Durham 03000 262626

Old Durham Gardens  

Old Durham, Benthouse Lane, South of Sherburn Road (A181), Durham, County Durham, DH1 2RY

Restored 17th to early 18th century formal gardens. View the listed features of the gardens and ongoing planting improvements throughout the gardens.

Sunday 17 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm

No booking required.

St Cuthbert's Catholic Church, Durham  

St. Cuthberts Catholic Church, Old Elvet, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3HL

Visit this simple, peaceful church to rest awhile or to view the stunning window by the world amous Irish stained glass artist Harry Clarke or works by renowned local sculptor Fenwick Lawson.

  • Friday 8 September from 1.00pm to 4.30pm
  • Saturday 9 September from 10.30am to 4.30pm
  • Sunday 10 September from 1.00pm to 4.30pm

No booking required.

St Margaret of Antioch Church  

Crossgate, Durham, County Durham, DH1 4PR

St Margaret of Antioch church building dates from the mid-twelfth century, and much of the stonework (as well as the font) is original. It is one of just two parish churches in the City with a Grade One listing.

Saturday 9 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm

No booking required.

Scents of Shakespeare in a Courtyard Herb Garden   NEW  

7 Owengate, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3HB

Visit our small World Heritage Site courtyard garden and make a small scented sachet using herbs.

Thursday 14 September from noon to 2.00pm

Booking preferred. Book here for Scents of Shakespeare.

Secret Garden's of St John's   

 St. Johns College, 3 South Bailey, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3RJ

Guided tours of gardens and talks on historic buildings.

Wednesday 13 September from 2.00pm to 4.00pm

Booking required.

Contact: Erin Munro

Email: johns.secretary@durham.ac.uk

Stories of a Soldier's Kitchen   

Gala Theatre, Millennium Place, Durham, County Durham, DH1 1WA

Join in to travel back in time to a Soldier's Kitchen. Help to tell little Mouse's story all about food, cooking, creativity, and how to avoid scurvy.

The Gallery, Gala Theatre, Millennium Place, Durham

Saturday 16 September from 10.00am to 3.00pm

Drop in, free entry.

Supported by National Lottery Heritage Fund, and delivered by The Story.

The Making of the Book

Cosin Library, Palace Green Library, Palace Green, Durham, County Durham, DH1 3EP

Conservators will be showing some of the tools and techniques of the kind of traditional hand bookbinding found in Cosin's Library.

Wednesday 13 September from 11.00am to 3.00pm

No booking required.

Brancepeth Castle Tour

Brancepeth Castle, Brancepeth, Durham, County Durham, DH7 8DF  

A guided tour of the exterior (weather permitting) and principal rooms of this Grade I medieval castle, home of the Nevilles, Earls of Westmorland.

  • Sunday 10 September - 2.30pm and 4.30pm
  • Thursday 14 September and Friday 15 September - 6.30pm

Booking required.

Contact Visit County Durham 03000 262626

Kilburn's Warehouse      

Kilburn's Warehouse, Shildon, County Durham, DL4 1PQ

Take a look inside Kilburn's Warehouse, one of the oldest industrial buildings remaining in Shildon.

Built as an iron merchant's warehouse, from 1842 the warehouse was used to build locomotives.

Saturday 16 September and Sunday 17 September from 11.00am to 4.00pm

No booking required.

Shildon Circular Historic Railway Walk     

Locomotion, The National Railway Museum At Shildon, Dale Road Trading Estate, Dale Road, Shildon, County Durham, DL4 2RE

Discover Shildon's historic place in the industrial revolution with this circular walk between the key sites in the world's first railway town. Discover the story of the Stockton and Darlington Railway and Timothy Hackworth.

This circular walk will take around 3 to 4 hours to complete at a gentle pace.

Comfortable walking shoes are required. This walk is organised by the Friends of the Stockton and Darlington Railway.

Saturday 9 September at 10.00am

Booking required.

Contact: Jonathan Ratcliffe, jonathan.a.ratcliffe@gmail.com, 07773 952544

St Laurence's Church, Pittington  

Hallgarth Lane, High Pittington, Durham, County Durham, DH6 1AB

Visit St Laurence Church, a grade I listed, 12th and 13th century church.

Saturday 9 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm

No booking required.

Explore St Edmund's

St Edmund's Church, Church Lane, Edmundbyers, County Durham, DH8 9NQ

Discover the history and natural history of this ancient church and churchyard, and the village in which they are set, with guided tours and talks.

Sunday 17 September: church tour 2.00pm, natural history tour 3.30pm

No booking required.

Open Day - Derwentcote Steel Furnace 

Derwentcote Steel Furnace, Forge Lane, Hamsterley, Rowlands Gill, Tyne and Wear, NE17 7RS

Built around 1730, Derwentcote is the earliest and most complete steel-making furnace in Britain. Join our open day to explore the conical furnace building, with demonstrations and short walking tours also available on the day.

Saturday 16 September from 11.00am to 3.00pm

No booking required.

St Barnabas Burnmoor Church       

Burnmoor, Houghton Le Spring, County Durham, DH4 6EU

A parish church built in the nineteenth century under the sole supervision of George Fredrick Lambton, 2nd Earl of Durham.

Saturday 9 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm

No booking required.

St Ives' Church Leadgate    

St Ives Church, St Ives Road, Leadgate, County Durham, DH8 7TS

Come and discover the unique story of St Ives' Church Leadgate, the only church dedicated to St Ives in the Northern Province.

Friday 15 September, Saturday 16 September and Sunday 17 September from 11.00am to 5.00pm.

No booking required.

Apollo Pavilion, Peterlee

Apollo Pavilion, 91 Oakerside Drive, Peterlee, County Durham, SR8 1LE

75 years ago Peterlee was designated as a 'New Town'. Living Memory, one of the town's celebratory projects, invites you to record your memories and opinions of the Apollo Pavilion.

Saturday 16 September: Sessions 11.00am to 12.30pm and 2.00pm to 2.30pm, walk at 1.00pm. 

Booking preferred. 

Contact: David Taylor Gooby

07793114037, david.taylorgooby@btinternet.com

East Durham Heritage Group   

East Durham Heritage and Lifeboat Centre, Seaham Harbour Marina, Seaham, County Durham, SR7 7EE

The East Durham Heritage and Lifeboat Centre houses the restored George Elmy that served as Seaham's lifeboat from 1950 until it was tragically wrecked on 17th November 1962.

The East Durham Heritage and Lifeboat Centre seeks to pass on to the wider community information and knowledge about the history and heritage of Seaham and the East Durham area.

Friday 8 September, Saturday 9 September, Sunday 10 September, Thursday 14 September, Friday 15 September, Saturday 16 September and Sunday 17 September from 9.00am to 3.30pm

No booking required.

St Andrew's Church -  Dalton le Dale   

St Andrew's Church, St Cuthberts Tce, Dalton le Dale, Seaham, County Durham, SR7 8QT

St Andrews Church has some unique features dating back to Anglo-Saxon origins.

An ancient church with Anglo-Saxon origins. Built 1155 in a picturesque location and featuring an external sundial and Anglo Saxon gravestone cover built into the south facing wall. The nave has an unusual sundial made up of Roman numerals. There are 2 effigies, one showing Sir William Bowes and the other his wife Lady Maud of Dalton.

Saturday 16 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm

No booking required.

St Mary the Virgin, Easington

Hall Walks, Easington Village, Peterlee, County Durham SR8 3BP

A 12th century Parish Church, with evidence of Saxon origins. The building contains Medieval pieces.

Saturday 9 September from 11.00am to 3.00pm

No booking required.

Wheatley Hill Heritage Centre   

Cemetery Lodge, 25 Woodlands Avenue, Wheatley Hill, Durham,  DH6 3JY

Wheatley Heritage centre is situated in the cemetery and was originally used as a chapel of rest. It was opened by Miners' Leader, Peter Lee in 1907 and was used to hold funerals until the late 1950's.

Thursday 14 September, Friday 15 September and Saturday 16 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm.

No booking required.

Escomb Saxon Church  

Escomb Saxon Church, Saxon Green, Escomb, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, DL14 7SY

Have a guided tour of this ancient, Anglo-Saxon Church, built in the 7th century, and learn about its history and heritage.

This is one of the most ancient Celtic-style churches in the UK, built around 680AD.

Saturday 9 September from 1.00pm to 5.00pm 

No booking required.

Evenwood and Ramshaw District History Society: Changes  NEW 

Evenwood Parish Hall, Shirley Terrace, Evenwood, County Durham, DL14 9RA

Evenwood and Ramshaw District History Society: A display with two themes each showing a different aspect of local history and sport.

  • Friday 8 September and Saturday 9 September from 10.00am to 3.00pm     
  • Sunday 10 September from 1.00pm to 3.00pm

No booking required.

Killhope

Lanehead, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, DL13 1AR    

Killhope lead mining museum is a multi-award winning attraction and is situated 450 metres (1500 feet) above sea level in Upper Weardale within the stunning North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Friday 8 September, Saturday 9 September, Sunday 10 September, Monday 11 September, Tuesday 12 September, Wednesday 13 September, Thursday 14 September, Friday 15 September, Saturday 16 September, Sunday 17 September from 10.00am to 3.30pm.

No booking required.

Mighty Wurlitzer Theatre Pipe Organ Visits

North East Theatre Organ Association, New Victoria Centre, High Street, Howden Le Wear, Crook, County Durham, DL15 8EZ

See and hear the North East's only Wurlitzer theatre pipe organ (one of UK's largest). Learn how it was originally used about 100 years ago!

Saturday 16 September from 10.00am to 5.00pm

No booking required.

St James' Church, Hamsterley    

St James' Church, Hamsterley, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, DL13 3RQ

St James' Church, Hamsterley. An opportunity to see one of County Durham's Grade 1 listed churches.

Officially dated from 1180, St James' Church sits on the end of a promontory with magnificent views across the River Wear.

Saturday 9 September from 10.00am to 4.00pm

No booking required.

St Mary's Parish Church         

Newgate, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NQ

The church tower will be open with access to the ringing chamber and the clock chamber.

Local bell ringers will help visitors understand how church bells are rung and also give access to the clock chamber.

Sunday 10 September from 2.00pm to 4.00pm

No booking required.

The Bowes Museum

The Bowes Museum, Newgate, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 8NP

The Bowes Museum is offering a varied programme of spotlight talks and tours, featuring behind the scenes talks in areas of the Museum not normally open to the public.

Saturday 16 September from 10.00am to 5.00pm

No booking required.

The Fitzhugh library

The Fitzhugh Library, 51 Market Place, Middleton-in-Teesdale, Barnard Castle, County Durham, DL12 0QH

Visit the hidden gem of the Fitzhugh Library and its collection of photographs, books and documents concerning the County Palatine of Durham and the ecclesiastical parish of Romaldkirk. The Library contains over 60,000 items.

Friday 8 September, Saturday 9 September, Sunday 10 September, Monday 11 September. Tuesday 12 September from 10.00am to 3.00pm

No booking required.

Thorpe Light Railway  

Thorpe Light Railway, Whorlton, County Durham, DL12 9TW (nearest postcode)

An opportunity for visitors to learn about the history of Thorpe Light Railway and hear about future plans.

Visitors can join a behind-the-scenes tour to learn about the history of this miniature railway, and the work of the friends group to restore and operate it.

Saturday 16 September from 12.30pm to 3.30pm and tours at 1.00pm, 2.00pm and 3.00pm.

No booking required.

The Weardale Museum

Hotts, Ireshopeburn, Weardale, Bishop Auckland, County Durham, DL13 1HD

A small volunteer-run Museum that is dedicated to protecting, preserving and recording the history and heritage of Weardale. There is a range of displays featuring different elements of life in the Dale and of its people.

Activities for Children.

Monday 11 September, Tuesday 12 September, Wednesday 13 September, Thursday 14 September, Friday 15 September from 1.00pm to 4.00pm 

No booking required.

How to include your venue or event

We welcome new venues and events. If you, your organisation or community group would like to take part, or if you would like some more information, then please contact us.

Contact us
Heritage Open Days
03000 267 133
Our address is:
  • Durham County Council
  • County Hall
  • Durham
  • County Durham
  • United Kingdom
  • DH1 5UQ