Heritage Open Days - discover history right on your doorstep in West Sussex

Heritage Open Days are a great way to discover places, people and crafts where you live.

Nutbourne Vineyard
Nutbourne Vineyard

The open days take place every September and is England’s largest festival of history and culture.

Thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery, local people and visitors will be able to explore hidden places and try new experiences across the South East.

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All the events are free and include tours of a working watermill, windmills, Masonic Halls, and tours of graveyards.

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Heritage Open Days - All the places in West Sussex taking part

Many events will explore this year’s theme, Edible England, offering opportunities to learn about food production, celebrate local specialities and uncover the customs and quirks around what we eat and drink.

Sarah Holloway, programme manager for Heritage Open Days, said: “We’re all interested in where we live but we don’t necessarily know the stories behind the buildings and spaces we walk past each day.

“Our event organisers keep finding creative ways to tell these tales and keep them alive.

“Heritage Open Days connects people through shared experiences and this year, that feels more important than ever. It’s also one of the reasons we chose Edible England as our theme. Food brings people together and what we eat and drink is at the heart of much of our culture, our history, our communities, and our daily lives.”

Heritage Open Days is coordinated and promoted nationally by the National Trust with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Every single Heritage Open Days event is free, including access to many sites that usually charge for admission.

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said: “We’re delighted our players are able to continue to support Heritage Open Days in 2021.

“The festival has always been about bringing communities together, and this year we’re particularly excited to see how this can be done through food and drink events. It’s certainly a tasty theme.”

Especially for Heritage Open Days Nymans, near Handcross, is offering free entry and will be opening its service wing kitchen. Visitors will be able to discover how Anne, the countess of Rosse, made use of the room and its history before the 1947 fire.

The Ruins will also be open, with the chance to join an exclusive tour of the gardens within. During the tour visitors will enter the remains of the Great Hall which was used during the war as a dormitory for evacuee school boys.

Olivia Thomas, part of the vineyard team at Nutbourne Vineyard, said: “Heritage Weekend visitors to Nutbourne Vineyards will be able to visit our windmill from c1840 that has been renovated with a 360° balcony to enjoy views of the South Downs.

“It has an interesting history that includes use as a holiday retreat in connection with Dr Barnardo’s Homes.

“They can also follow our vineyard trail to see our three trellising systems, including our vines planted in 1980 in the Geneva double curtain system, and our lakes with a Domesday watermill.”

Nutbourne Vineyard in Pulborough is also taking part. Heritage Weekend visitors will be able to visit the windmill from c1840 that has been renovated with a 360° balcony to enjoy views of the South Downs. It has an interesting history that includes use as a holiday retreat in connection with Dr Barnardo's Homes. People can also follow the vineyard trail to see three trellising systems, including the vines planted in 1980 in the Geneva double curtain system, and the lakes with a Domesday watermill.

Petworth is hosting a heritage weekend with a number of places around the town taking part. Historic venues involved include Burton Mill, Petworth House and Park, walking tours of Petworth Town, Petworth Real Tennis Court, Leconfield Hall, St Mary the Virgin Church, United Reformed Church, Sacred Heart Catholic Church and Petworth Society.

Hilary Brookes, community engagement worker at the Coultershaw Heritage site in Petworth, said: “Many of the sites are offering visitors the chance to glimpse into often unseen or hidden areas and providing special one off talks and experiences.

“There really is something to captivate the interest of all ages and best of all it is completely free.

“Whether you are a local or a first time visitor, we are looking forward to welcoming everyone and showcasing the varied, beautiful and unique heritage that Petworth has to offer.”

The Coultershaw Heritage Site will also be opening its doors.

Hilary said: “The theme this year is ‘Edible England’ and here at Coultershaw Heritage Site, our visitors will have the opportunity to view our historic water wheel and beam pump in action, experience steam powered threshing and milling and families can partake in making salt dough breads and craft a boat before sailing it down our water chute.”

Visitors will be able to explore the unique history of Petworth by hopping aboard a vintage bus that will be taking people to all the participating venues.

Restored watermill Burton Mill will be taking part in the edible England theme by showing visitors the traditional milling process with water-powered millstones producing wholemeal flour and a vintage ‘dresser’ removing the bran to create white bread flour.

Other working rural machinery will also be on show along with a small exhibition on the history of this wonderful 1780s mill.

In Ditchling Pruden and Smith Goldsmiths are hosting a workshop tour. Visitors will gain a fascinating insight into the world of a contemporary jeweller, exploring how traditional techniques are used alongside state-of-the-art technology. You will see some of the original tools that Pruden and Smith - third-generation Goldsmiths - continue to use to this day.

It will be open Friday, September 10 to Sunday, September 19, daily from 11am to 4pm.

Heritage Open Days is England’s contribution to European Heritage Days, taking place across 50 countries.

For further information about Heritage Open Days www.heritageopendays.org.uk