Take a tour to learn about history on your doorstep in North Herts this weekend

PUBLISHED: 14:03 11 September 2015

Friends Meeting House, Hitchin

Friends Meeting House, Hitchin


Landmarks across North Herts will be opening their doors this week as part of England's largest heritage festival.

British Schools Museum, HitchinBritish Schools Museum, Hitchin

The annual Heritage Open Days programme – which runs until Sunday – will see historic buildings in Letchworth and Hitchin which are rarely open to the public roll out the red carpet free of charge.

Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation historian Josh Tidy, will be leading a tour around the town on Saturday, including a trip to The Cloisters, a striking former open air school.

The following day Josh’s tour will feature a visit to the Howgills Friends’ Meeting House, which was built for the town’s Quakers as Letchworth took shape in 1907.

Visitors can also take a look around the Spirella Building, the International Garden Cities Exhibition and the St Christopher School centenary display in the community museum in The Arcade.

The Cloisters, Radcliffe Road,HitchinThe Cloisters, Radcliffe Road,Hitchin

Josh said: “The Cloisters and Howgills are special examples of Letchworth’s rich architectural heritage.

“The Cloisters is famous for its unusual and fantastical fairytale castle appearance, and Howgills has a classic Letchworth arts and crafts look and interior details.

“Both were built by people who came to the world’s first garden city inspired by the idea, and reflect the range of religions and philosophies that found a home here.”

The Hitchin Society has been busy arranging for a variety of historic buildings to be open to the public, such as the 1950s Friends Meeting House in Paynes Park.

HitchinTilehouse Street Baptist Church, HitchinHitchinTilehouse Street Baptist Church, Hitchin

Also on show are the converted almshouses opposite Holy Saviour Church on Radcliffe Road – the site now has a new lease of life as modern homes, but the garden in the quadrangle will be open.

The nearby church which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year will be serving refreshments.

One of Hitchin’s oldest buildings, The Biggin, is hosting a photography exhibition across the weekend, while Our Lady Immaculate and St Andrew Roman Catholic Church is displaying work by Austrian-born artist and teacher Theodor Kern – who settled in the town and live in Bearton Green until his death in 1969.

There are also tours of the town’s Triangle Community Garden and a chance to admire the new mosaic panels made by local groups alongside artist Jane Visick on offer.

Josh Tidy with the Garden Cities Exhibition Josh Tidy with the Garden Cities Exhibition

Sunday afternoon will see historian Terry Knight leading a guided walk through Hitchin, starting by the war memorial next to St Mary’s Church.

Tilehouse Street Baptist Church is housing a small exhibition of its history, while visitors to Walsworth Road Baptist Church will be greeted by live organ music.

Rev Andrew Hentonpusey, of Walsworth Road Baptist Church, said: “We’re going to have the baptismal pool, which we use to baptise people by immersion.

“The pool will be open and filled, but we’re not expecting anyone to use it!”

Caldecote ChurchCaldecote Church

North Herts College will also be opening its doors to the public, and the British Schools Museum will be hosting a variety of events in its heritage classrooms.

For something slightly different it’s worth taking a look at the bath house in Stevenage – on Church Lane, behind the Cromwell Hotel – between 11am and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday for a look at how people kept clean before the birth of the new town.

The pint-sized St Mary Magdalene Church in the deserted medieval village of Caldecote near Ashwell is also open on Sunday between midday and 5pm.

People can book online for spaces on the free Letchworth tours at www.garden-cities-exhibition.com or in person at the Tourist Information Centre.

To find out more about the timings for all events on offer visit www.heritageopendays.org.uk, and search for Hitchin, Letchworth or Stevenage.

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