Civic Secrets Unlocked
Britain's private heritage revealed
Those with a fascination for historic buildings and a strong urge to peak through the keyhole of doors marked 'No Entry' can indulge their curiosity on a massive scale next month when, on September 14th and 15th, as part of Heritage Open Days 96, nearly 2,000 private properties in Britain allow visitors to cross their thresholds.
Funded by the Department of National Heritage as part of a Council of Europe initiative involving over thirty European countries (a French idea piloted in the early 80s was the original inspiration), this now regular event has for the past three years been coordinated by the Civic Trust who last year saw the number of visitors double from 1994, to half-a-million.
The Trust is responsible for persuading a variety of owners to throw open their doors – from David Mellor, the cutlery designer (whose round factory at Hathersage was inspired by the old gasworks that once stood on its site), to his political namesake's successor, the Minister for Heritage, Lord Inglewood.
Kate Anderton, Co-ordinator at the Civic Trust, explains: 'Heritage Open Days 96 is England's open house weekend, providing free access to hundreds of fascinating buildings of all ages, types and styles that are not normally open or that usually charge an entrance fee. The event aims to celebrate the wealth of England's architectural and cultural heritage and to promote awareness of the contemporary architecture that will form the heritage of tomorrow'.