Heritage Open Days feature

HISTORIC properties around Warwickshire will be opening their doors for free this week as part of Heritage Open Days.

From tomorrow (Thursday September 6) to Sunday, people will be able to explore many buildings normally closed to the public, and see behind the scenes of some of the most popular attractions. Here is a rundown of places you can visit.

IT may be famed for its Regency grace and grandeur, but Leamington is the brash newcomer among Warwickshire towns.

Despite this, tours and walks abound over the four days, including Leamington’s historic buildings, its blue plaques and even its wrought ironwork.

Built in the Classical style, The Polish Catholic Centre in High Street was the town’s first town hall and later became its police station. It will be open on Sunday from 1.30pm to 4.30pm.

The town’s present town hall, built in the ‘grand style’ by architect John Cundall, will be open on Friday between 10am and 4pm.

Once the heart of the town’s spa and hydrotherapy treatments, the Pump Room complex, which today houses Leamington’s gallery and library, concert rooms, a cafe and its tourist information centre, will be holding a guided tour on Friday at 1pm.

The Assembly in Spencer Street has hosted concerts by KT Tunstall, Professor Green, Spiritualized and St Etienne, but it had been entertaining generations of Leamington people since its days as a dance hall in the 1920s. Restored and featuring Dolly Parton’s caravan as the dressing room and an interior designed by Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen, it will be open on Saturday September 8 from 10am to 1pm.

Leamington Real Tennis Club was built in 1846 and the historic game is still played within its walls today. Tours will take place on Thursday and Friday at 11am.

Railway history buffs can take tours of Leamington’s Grade II listed Art Deco station, built by Great Western Railways and opened in 1939, on Saturday and Sunday at 10.30am and 2pm.

Leamington Local History Group will be opening South Lodge in Jephson Gardens (Thursday and Friday, 10.30am to noon, Saturday and Sunday, 10.30am to 3.30pm) to shown an exhibition of the park’s history, including its origins as an arboretum and use as an archery ground, tennis courts and Leamington Lights. The group will also be running free guided walks. Visit the lodge for information.

There will be a walking tour of 1940s Leamington starting from South Lodge of Jephson Gardens on Thursday at 10.30am, a tour of Leamington’s decorative ironwork starting from Leamington library on Thursday at 12.45pm. The following day, a walk around the town’s blue plaques starting at Leamington town hall on Friday at 2.30pm , while the Leamington Society will be organising a walk around the town’s historic buildings on Sunday September 9, starting outside the Pump Room at 2pm.

Guided tours of the Gurdwara Sahib Temple in Tachbrook Park Drive are available on weekdays, simply by booking in advance on 412717. No drugs, alcohol or tobacco are allowed on the site.

There will be a flower festival in All Saint’s church, Leamington, over the weekend. The Victoria Terrace church still comprises elements of the medieval church, largely rebuilt in the French style, between 1843 and 1902.

Among the town’s other places of worship, Holy Trinity church in Beauchamp Avenue will be open on Friday from 10am to 4pm and Saturday from 10am to 5pm. The Roman Catholic St Peter the Apostle church in Dormer Place will be open on all four days from 10am to 4pm. Napoleon III was one of the congregation at Leamington Spa Mission, originally a Roman Catholic church and now used by the Seventh Day Adventists. It will be open on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

St Mark’s church in Rugby Road will be holding an exhibition when it opens from Thursday to Saturday between 10am and 5pm, and on Sunday from 2pm to 5pm, while St Mary’s church in St Mary’s Road (Thursday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm, Sunday 1pm to 5pm) has panels by artist Mo Enright.

Guided tours will be on offer when South Leamington’s Hindu Temple in Crown Court opens on Saturday from 1pm to 5pm.

The Royal Naval Association will be giving guided tours of their clubhouse off Adelaide Road (Saturday and Sunday, 11am and 3pm), showing the largest collection of naval memorabilia in the area and a history of the group.

Anyone interested in making a historic house energy efficient can look round Ashby House in Kenilworth Road on Saturday and Sunday between 2pm and 4pm. The Grade II listed house features secondary glazing, insulation, solar hot water and electricity.

Finally, the Spa Centre was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd, who also built Liverpool’s Roman Catholic Cathedral, Harlow New Town and much of early Sydenham. Dressing room and backstage tours are taking place on Saturday. Call 334418 to book slots or visit www.royalspacentreandtownhall.com

WARWICK is the ancient county town of Warwickshire, but has examples of architecture from every period nestling among its narrow streets.

A one-hour guided tour of the town will start from the front door of Market Hall Museum on Friday and Saturday at noon.

It may have Saxon roots, but much of Warwick was rebuilt in the Georgian style after the fire of Warwick in 1694, and among properties open to the public are Alderson House in High Street (Sunday, 10am to 2pm), the Quaker Meeting House (Saturday, 10am to 1pm, Sunday, 1pm to 4pm). Northgate Street is a prime example of Georgian streetscape and there will be tours of the Judges’ House and Warwick’s former crown court building on Friday at 3pm, 4.15pm and 5.30pm.

Warwick Unitarian Chapel in High Street (Friday and Saturday, 10.30am to 4pm, Sunday, 10.30am to 3.30pm) was built in 1780 in simple Gothic style and its most famous minister William Field founded the town’s first Sunday School and wrote a guide to the town in 1816.

A study in Gothic and Victorian styles, St Nicholas church will be open on all four days from 11am to 4pm. Refreshments and guides will be available.

Saltisford Canal Trust restored the Warwick arm of the Grand Union its centre will be open on all four days from 9am to 5pm.

Hill Close Gardens were the subject of a more recent restoration, with the Victorian detached gardens cleared and replnted. They will be open on Friday and Sunday from 2pm to 5pm, and on Saturday from 11am to 5pm.

There will be a behind the scenes tour of Warwickshire Museum’s costume collection on Friday at 10.30am, and free tours of Warwick Records Office on Saturday at 2pm and 3pm.

A short walk from the bottom of Smith Street, families can explore the drawers and cupboards of a Victorian kitchen and see inside a schoolroom at St John’s Museum on Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

By the banks of the River Avon two miles from the town centre, Guys Cliffe House has a cave associated with Guy of Warwick and a medieval chapel. Now owned by Freemasons, it will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

FAMED for its castle and a possibly fictional romance between Queen Elizabeth I and the Earl of Leicester, Kenilworth is a town synonymous with history.

Anyone hoping for an overview of old Kenilworth can attend a guided walk meeting at the Abbey Barn Museum in the Abbey ruins on Saturday at 2pm.

One of the most important people to have lived in the castle was John O’Gaunt. The Kenilworth Society will give a talk on the courtier at Jubilee House in Smalley Place on Friday at 7.30pm.

While parts of the castle are still standing, the town’s abbey has all but disappeared. Holding exhibitions about the abbey and the town’s history, the abbey barn museum will be open on Saturday and Sunday from 2.30pm to 4.30pm.

St Nicholas church in Abbey Fields will be open on all four days from 8.30am to 6pm, but will close on Saturday from 11am to 1.30pm and during services on Sunday.

Designed by AW Pugin, St Augustine’s Roman Catholic church has a fetching interior and will be open on Sunday from 10am to 4pm. The more modern St Francis of Assisi church will be open on Sunday from 12.30pm to 4pm.

VILLAGES will also be showcasing their own treasures, hidden or otherwise.

There will be two opportunities to walk around the historic buildings of Lillington, organised by Lillington Local History Society on Thursday at 7.30pm and on Sunday at 2.30pm. A longer walk will begin from the junction of Lillington Road and Campion Road, while a shorter walk will start from the Chain office in Crown Way.

Members of the Whitnash Society will guide visitors around the remnants of the former village in a walk starting at the Methodist church in Murcott Road on Saturday at 2pm. There will be photographs and information at the hall. Call 336393 or 330038.

Featuring a massive collection of agricultural artefacts and memorabilia, and showing how people lived and worked in the countryside, Marton Museum will also be opening its doors on Saturday and Sunday from 10.30am to 5pm.

St John the Baptist church in Avon Dassett contains the 13th century tomb of a deacon who died in the church’s recess, but is a masterpiece of the Gothic revival, built by Charles Buckeridge in 1869.

CHURCHES around south Warwickshire will be opening as part of the weekend, showcasing heritage from the Saxon past to modern reinterpretations.

With elements dating from the 12th to the 19th centuries, and a stone coffin reputed to be for King Offa of Mercia, St Gregory’s church in Offchurch (open Thursday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm, Sunday 2pm to 5pm) is a short drive west of Leamington.

To the south of Leamington St Chad’s church in Bishop’s Tachbrook (Friday, 10am to 4pm; Saturday, 10am to 11.30am, 1.30pm to 4pm; Sunday, 2pm to 4pm) includes work by Kingsley, William Morris and Phillip Webb, as well as remains of medieval wall paintings.

St John the Baptist church in Wasperton was remodelled by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1847 and includes two windows by Pugin, as well as a 16th century pulpit. 18th century wrought iron communion rail, timber porch and spirelet. It will open on Saturday and Sunday, from 10am to 4pm.

In nearby Barford, the 14th century stone tower of St Peter’s church (Friday, 10am to 4pm; Saturday, 10am to noon; Sunday, 10.30am to 4pm) is pockmarked with shot from the civil war. All Saints’ church, Sherbourne (Thursday to Saturday, 10am to 4pm) dates from 1862 and was designed by Scott and includes stained glass by Clayton and Bell and a tabletomb by AWN Pugin.

St John’s church in Baginton (Saturday, 10am to 5pm, Sunday, 2pm to 5pm) is a 13th century sandstone church with a central spirelet. It contains 17th and 18th century mural tablets, 18th century panelling and a 15th century brass to Sr William Bagot and his wife. The remains of Sir William’s medieval fortified house, Bagot’s Castle in Baginton, are also open. (Friday, 1pm to 6pm; Saturday, 10am to 5pm; Sunday, 10am to 4pm.)

St Ann’s Roman Catholic church in Wappenbury (Thursday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm) was built in the 19th century and has fine examples of the Stations of the Cross.

In Hunningham, the sandstone-built St Margaret’s church dates from the 13th century with 19th century additions. It will be open on all four days, from 9am to dusk.