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Heritage Open Days 2019 [News]

Published: Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Cathedral Quarter

As the nights draw in and autumn is in the air, it means one brilliant thing for us here in Coventry – Heritage Open Days are back.

The annual festival is hosted in various cities across the country, with places of history and heritage that aren’t usually open to the public, or who aren’t usually free to access, open their doors and reveal the treasures that they have in store, all for free.

This year the event is extra special with it being the 25th anniversary and spread over two weeks so that you can soak up what the city has to offer. From castles that defended the city, to a guildhall that kept a Queen a prisoner, there’s plenty to take a look at.

Here are a few of our favourites to give you a taste for what’s in store this September.

The Council House

The Council House is a Grade II early Tudor style listed building with rich heraldic decoration. It was built in 1913-17 although due to the start of the First World War, the building was not officially opened until June 1920 by the Duke of York. A feature of the city centre, this Heritage Open Days gives you an opportunity to view the Council Chamber, Lord Mayor’s Hospitality Suite and Lady Mayoress’ Parlour, with Guides available to talk through the history. You can view exhibitions and displays including Coventry’s involvement in Heritage Open Days over the past 25 years, a display of the Royal Navy Warship HMS Diamond, which has strong links with the city and other historical information. Films will be showing Coventry’s past and present in the committee rooms, along with photographs. Children’s heritage workshop in Committee Rom 3 with ribbon weaving, pebble painting and make and take colouring. The Women’s Research Group will be displaying information on Saturday 21 September. Sunday 22 September only – Medieval Musicians’ Blast from the Past will be delighting us with their mixture of music from the middle ages to the present day, with the opportunity to learn about the instruments that they play. 

St. Mary’s Guildhall

One of the finest surviving examples of a medieval guildhall in the country. First built in the 1340s for the merchant guild of St Mary, members of Royalty were frequently entertained at the Guildhall as guests of the mayor and the city whilst Mary Queen of Scots was briefly captive here in 1569. It is almost certain that Shakespeare would have performed in the Great Hall on the occasions that his touring companies visited Coventry. The interiors give an insight into Coventry’s past, with collections of early arms and armour, furniture and artworks. The main attraction is the Great Hall with its medieval stained glass, a ceiling of carved angels and, dominating an entire wall, one of the rarest and most important tapestries in the country.

War Memorial Park Chamber of Silence

The Friends of the War Memorial Park are giving the visitors a chance to see inside the 90-foot Cenotaph at the Chamber of Silence, which is only normally open for Remembrance Sunday. This rare opportunity will enable those attending to view the Rolls of the Fallen which lists all of the Coventry men killed in the two World Wars as well as more recent conflicts.

Draper’s Hall

Coventry finest Regency building, Draper’s Hall was built in 1832 as social rooms for the Coventry Drapers’ Company, which moved out in 1960, when the hall was converted into a magistrates’ court. Unused for years, this will be a rare opportunity to view the intact magnificent Regency/ early Victorian interiors before the building is converted into a music education and performance venue in 2021. Prior to the construction of a rear extension, an archaeological investigation of the site has been undertaken by the Museum of London Archaeology. This is a significant site, the location of the important medieval Great Drapery of Coventry, the most important cloth market in late medieval English outside London.

Herbert Art Gallery & Museum

The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum tells 2,000 years of Coventry’s history and his home to an impressive visual art collection. This Heritage Open Days gives you the opportunity to join one of the Herbert’s free ‘Behind the Scenes’ tours of the museum stores. Each tour will last about 45 minutes and can accommodate up to 12 people (suitable for ages five and upwards). Please contact in advance. The tours will take stock of the Herbert’s collection of oil paintings, dating from the 1500s to the present day; explore the natural sciences collection, including taxidermy mammals and birds, as well as insects, fossils, skeletons and more. A children’s heritage workshop will be based in the Herbert Archives area with ribbon weaving, pebble painting and make and take colouring activities.

With over 50 venues and locations open in Coventry for this special event, the list above is only the tip of the iceberg. With Coventry Transport Museum, Coventry Cathedral, The Old Grammar School and absolutely loads more to see, your weekend is sure to be jam-packed with history and heritage. Take a look here to read more.

As well as heritage treasures to explore, there will also be lots of entertainment throughout this year’s event. From The Beer Garage offering up all things delicious at War Memorial Park, to the city centre walking tours; and from Coventry’s Explorer trail giving your children the chance to become a Heritage Hero and to receive their very own badge*, to A Taste of Foleshill, a tour of the multicultural bazaar that boasts food, fashions and heritage from around the world. There will also be live music on Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September. Read more on all of this and more here.


*Trails can be picked up from and returned to the Tourist Information Centre, located at The Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, or the Coventry Cathedral welcome desk.