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Hidden gems open doors for heritage open days

Published on Wednesday, September 6, 2017

PEOPLE will have the chance to look around buildings and places that are not normally open to the public this week, as a four-day celebration of Leicester’s history and heritage gets under way.

Civic buildings, university sites, a heritage tram depot and even a disused railway tunnel will all open during the Heritage Open Days event that starts tomorrow (Thursday 7 September).

There’s also the chance to look behind the scenes at the Phoenix cinema, book a place on a guided tour of a 19th century cemetery, and drop in to Leicester’s Freemasons’ Hall – with a rare opportunity to see artefacts in its museum that date back to the 17th century (Saturday 9 September only).

The University of Leicester will offer guided tours of its campus as well as the chance to see iconic items from its archives, such as the 15th century bible used for the reinterment of King Richard III and original manuscripts from its Sue Townsend and Joe Orton collections (Saturday 9 September).

De Montfort University is also taking part in the event, opening its heritage sites – including Trinity Chapel and the Leicester Castle Great Hall – on Saturday and Sunday (9-10 September), while Leicester City Council’s headquarters at City Hall will be open to the public on Saturday (10.30am-12noon) for pre-booked tours.

A free 20-minute circular tour on a heritage bus will be one of the attractions at the Stoneygate Tram Depot on London Road, which will be open to the public from 10am to 4pm from 7-10 September, while the mile-long Glenfield Tunnel – one of the world’s first steam railway tunnels – will also be open for pre-booked tours.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “If you’d like to see how an historic building like Friars Mill has been brought back into use, or ever wondered what it’s like inside the magnificent Swaminarayan temple, this is your chance.

“This event is a great opportunity to explore places that aren’t normally open to the public and discover something new about the city you live in.

“Heritage Open Days are hugely popular with the public, but they wouldn’t be possible without the support of the volunteers who give up their time to share their passion for local history with others. We’re very grateful for their help with this event.”

Around 50 venues are taking part in Leicester’s Heritage Open Days programme, including the city’s Victoria Park, which hosts a fun-packed family day called ‘Raucous Races’ on Saturday (12 noon to 4pm).

Some events in the programme require pre-booking, and some venues will only be open for a limited time on one or two days, but entry to all venues is free of charge.

Full information is in a free brochure that’s available from shops, bars and the Visit Leicester centre on Gallowtree Gate. The brochure can also be viewed online at and many events can be booked by calling Visit Leicester on (0116) 299 4444.

Heritage Open Days is a national initiative that takes place each September. Further information, and a list of all the participating venues around the country, is available at