The heritage here on your doorstep
It’s the time of year when many people are going on holiday. The kids are off school and many people take the opportunity to have the family getaway here in the UK or abroad. Whilst they’re away, people will always take the opportunity whilst visiting somewhere new to explore the local cultural sites – the local museum, castle or cathedral.
Sometimes, we miss what’s on our doorstep. I speak to many people who live locally, but have never visited the cathedral or museum. It’s easy to make a point of visiting historic attractions whilst we’re away from home, but often defer visiting ones nearby as they’re always there. So, if you’re looking for some inspiration as to where to go this summer and have a few hours to spare, why not visit the cathedral or one of the many other historic treasures in the Peterborough area?
If that wasn’t enough incentive to find out more about Peterborough’s past, then there’s certainly reason to do so during the annual Heritage Open Days, September 7-10. This is a national event where both existing historic attractions and buildings which are not normally publicly accessible open their doors to explore. This year’s event sees 30 different buildings, sites and spaces across Peterborough opened up – more than ever before. These include behind the scenes tours at familiar buildings such as the museum or the Key Theatre, to tours around historic buildings that aren’t normally open, such as the Customs House, Fenwick Skrimshire’s House and the old RAF Westwood Officer’s Mess. More modern public buildings, such as the Town Hall, Thomas Deacon Academy and the Energy Recovery Centre on Fengate are also offering tours, whilst many parish churches are offering special tours and exhibitions.
Peterborough Cathedral is also opening up buildings around the precincts that are not normally open to view. Amongst these extraordinary spaces is the Cathedral Library, above the Gothic porch at the Cathedral’s West Front, which last year delighted visitors who climbed the spiral staircase to marvel at its book lined walls and medieval ceiling. One child commented that it looked as if she should expect to find Harry Potter studying in there!
There is also rare access to the 15th century Table Hall, once part of the abbey’s Infirmary, and Almoner’s Hall, from which charity was distributed to the medieval residents of Peterborough. The stunning 13th century Knights’ Chamber, which is within the Cathedral’s Visitor Centre, will also be open to view over the weekend, with medieval re-enactors on hand to explain about life in the medieval period. Tours of the precincts will show off some of the secret stories of the cathedral’s past, plus you can go on a cathedral tour or survey the heights from the top of the tower.
So why not look at Peterborough anew and take the chance to discover your local history - you can find out more about local events at www.heritageopendays.org.uk
Stuart Orme is operations director at Peterborough Cathedral