Open days to offer chance to go behind closed doors of hidden gems

Arbeia Roman Fort is part of the Heritage Open Day programme.
Arbeia Roman Fort is part of the Heritage Open Day programme.

A rare opportunity is being offered to explore South Tyneside’s rich architecture and culture with the return of Heritage Open Days.

The annual celebration provide visitors with a chance to discover and enjoy, sometimes hidden and often curious architectural treasures, with free access to properties usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission.

The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, will welcome visitors to its Monsters! exhibition as well as celebrating its new Dame Catherine Cookson display.

The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, will welcome visitors to its Monsters! exhibition as well as celebrating its new Dame Catherine Cookson display.

The national campaign is usually held over four consecutive days.

However, for the first time, this year’s celebrations will be held over two runs, from Thursday until Sunday and then from Thursday, September 13, to Sunday, September 16, giving even more people the chance to take advantage.

With a programme of around 30 fascinating events, activities, tours and walks taking place across South Tyneside, there is something for all ages.

Councillor Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council with responsibility for culture and leisure, said: “Heritage Open Days offer people a brilliant opportunity to discover South Tyneside’s rich history and take a closer look at some of the architectural treasures right on their doorstep.

St Pauls Church and Monastic Site in Jarrow.

St Pauls Church and Monastic Site in Jarrow.

“This year’s programme is packed full of activities that will bring the Borough’s local history to life and enable people to visit places that are normally closed to the public or usually charge a fee.

“We have a great wealth of historic and culturally important buildings, places and events that capture our rich and diverse heritage and I am delighted to see so many venues taking part this year.

“Whether you are into history, architecture, culture or just want to know more about the area, this is an ideal opportunity to go and have a closer look at some of the fabulous heritage we have to offer.”

Visitors can join the Mayor of South Tyneside on special tours of South Shields Town Hall with its stunning oak-panelled chambers and marble corridors as well as Jarrow Town Hall, remembered as the place where the famous Jarrow marchers set off to London in 1936.

South Shields Local History Group will also be welcoming visitors to South Shields Old Town Hall in the Market Place to view a display – ‘1768 and all that … the history of South Shields Old Town Hall’.

Jarrow Hall, Anglo Saxon farm and village and Bede Museum, is also offering free tours of the grounds, which is home to rare-breed animals and historic dwellings.

New for this year in South Tyneside is the Grade II Listed and newly refurbished St Hilda’s Pit Head, a proud symbol of the Durham Coalfield and important reminders of the area’s industrial heritage.

The building has been recently restored and brought back into use as a vibrant centre for the community and will be hosting talks, tours and film screenings during Heritage Open Days.

The former Pilots' Office at Wellesley Court, Greens Place, is also opening its doors and show artefacts and pictures relating to the Tyne Pilots and The Lifeboat Society which held offices in the building from 1886.

South Tyneside’ newest cultural attraction, The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, will be highlighting the popular ‘Monsters!’ exhibition as well as celebrating a world renowned author with the new Dame Catherine Cookson display.

Ann Clouston will also be taking people on a walk and talk along the riverside exploring South Shields’ interesting maritime heritage and giving an insight into its history of sailors, press-gangs and smugglers, with another walk focusing on the borough’s ‘Always Ready’ motto.

Local history enthusiasts can also join the Friends of North and South Marine Parks on a Heritage Walk around the seafront parks.

There is also an opportunity to learn more about the Roman tombstone of Regina at Arbeia Roman Fort and explore immigration and mixing of cultures 1800 years ago.

South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade is opening its doors again this year giving an insight into the heritage of the service and access to its historic Watch House. Souter Lighthouse, National Trust property, will also be taking part in Heritage Open Days.

A number of church buildings are also taking part including Grange Road Baptist Church in Jarrow, St Paul’s Church and Monastic Site in Jarrow and St Nicholas’ Church in West Boldon.

Others include St Mark and St Cuthbert’s Church in South Shields, St Hilda’s Church in South Shields Market Place and St Peter’s Church, where people can see a display chronicling weddings throughout the years.

Other attractions include a look behind the scenes at the 205 Battery Royal Artillery Open Day at the TA Centre in South Shields, Age Concern Tyneside South, The Customs House, The Mission to Seafarers, the North East Maritime Trust, The Westovian Theatre and Jarrow Salvation Army.

South Shields Museum will be showcasing its ‘King Coal’ exhibition about the Borough’s mining heritage.

This year’s event marks the 17th anniversary of the Heritage Open Days in Tyne and Wear, which is sponsored by Port of Tyne, and includes a multitude of buildings and venues across South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Sunderland, Newcastle and Gateshead.

Andrew Moffat, Port of Tyne chief executive officer, said: “The Port of Tyne is pleased to be able to support Heritage Open Days once again this year and help visitors to enjoy places that are not normally open to the public.

“Over eight days 199 venues will be open for free, offering unique experiences to go behind the scenes or try something new.

“The Tyne and Wear programme is one of the country’s best with something for everyone of all ages and abilities.

"This is a great opportunity to be inspired to get to know more about the heritage of Tyne and Wear and enjoy some great experiences with all the family.”

For full listings, specific opening times or booking information for events in South Tyneside, visit www.southtyneside.gov.uk/hod.

Copies of the Heritage Open Days booklet are also available at local libraries, community centres and the Visitor Information Centre at The Word, South Shields.