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Chance to explore Leicester’s hidden heritage

Published on Friday, September 3, 2021

3 minute read

Abbey Park ruins, Leicester

HERITAGE buildings, creative venues and places of worship will be throwing open their doors and offering behind-the-scenes tours for a series of free Heritage Open Days taking place from next week.

Leicester’s annual festival of Heritage Open Days is a once-a-year opportunity to find out more about the city’s hidden gems and its rich 2,000-year history. It takes place from Friday 10 to Sunday 19 September 2021.

As well as opening up buildings or parts of buildings not normally accessible to the public, events will include heritage walking tours and fetes, open days and park walks. Everything is free to attend, and although booking is required for some activities, others are open for people to drop in to on the day.

Online activities will also be taking place.

The programme of events includes the chance to find out more about the At Risk War Memorials Project, highlighting more than 45 different war memorials across the city, county and Rutland which have been taken into care and would otherwise have been lost. Past visitors have discovered ancestors and seen their family members honoured. Drop in to view the project from Thursday 9 to Sunday 12 September at the Chancel, behind All Saints Church on Highcross Street.

Join an online tour of De Montfort Hall behind the scenes from the comfort of your own home, and learn little-known facts about this purpose-built concert hall and its history. Or head to one of the city centre’s acclaimed conservation areas on 12 or 19 September and join a Greyfriars Legal Quarter walking tour. Tour guide Andrew Harper will tell the story of the area’s fascinating legal history from 1750 to the present day.

On 14 or 16 September at 2pm, a guided tour of Leicester Abbey Ruins (pictured), will share fascinating facts about the Abbey’s different rooms, what it would have been like to live there, what the rooms were used for and what was found during excavations.

Leicester Cathedral will also host a variety of events, including, on Tuesday 14 September, a History of Medicine tour. This tour looks at the superstitions at the heart of medical care during the Middle Ages, the role of the church in ministering to the sick and how this changed over the centuries.

Go back in time and have fun at The Y, Leicester’s oldest surviving theatre. Built in 1900, this beautiful Grade II listed building will be hosting a Heritage Summer Fete from Monday 13 to Wednesday 15 September, with original sideshows, Edwardian and mid-20th century games.

Leicester Civic Society will celebrate 50 years of championing the city’s built heritage at St Mary De Castro church on Saturday 18 September, with talks, guided walks and exhibition displays. There will be the opportunity to look around the ancient, Grade I listed church, located within the former bailey of Leicester Castle - and at 5pm, the society will hold its awards ceremony, with categories including best heritage restoration, best new building design and the best heritage champion in Leicester.

St George’s Church was the first church built in Leicester since the Reformation. Built in 1823-7 by William Parsons, the church was adopted in 1983 by the Serbian community in Leicester. The church continues to serve the people of the Christian Orthodox faith today, with services held regularly on most Sunday mornings. Take an opportunity to tour this beautiful church on 11 or 18 September and look through the altar at the breath-taking stained glass windows.

Leicester Secular Hall will also be throwing open its doors to visitors, on 12 and 19 September, with guided tours of the Grade II-listed building and an opportunity to see old Dutch tiles which are not usually on view.

City mayor Peter Soulsby said: “We have so much heritage all around us in Leicester, but often it is hidden in plain sight. Many of the city centre’s beautiful buildings become noticeable if you simply look up from street level.

“Heritage Open Days are a chance for everyone to appreciate and celebrate what we have around us and our city’s remarkable history, but this festival wouldn’t be happening without our strong partnerships with local voluntary organisations, and the hard work of some dedicated volunteers.

“I’d like thank Leicester’s enthusiastic heritage volunteers, who share their passion for local history so generously – not least the members of Leicester Civic Society, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.”

A full programme of events, with details of dates, times and how to book, can be found online at

Printed copies are available from Visit Leicester tourist information, located in the King Richard III Visitor Centre.

Information about events taking place around the country as part of the national Heritage Open Days festival is available at