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9 September, 2006

Hidden heritage

This is the 2006 Heritage Open Days weekend, an annual event during which various buildings of architectural/cultural significance, not normally accessible to the public, are open for visitors.  Most towns across the UK have one or two; the Lancaster district had 17 this year, of which I visited five today with F. and my camera.

By their nature, they're private premises, even discreetly anonymous, so it was fascinating to pass through an unregarded door into a Masonic Hall, or though an unnoticed side door and up a flight of stairs to a room absolutely full of Baroque plasterwork. One doesn't often get the opportunity to tour the offices of a ringtone company, which happen to occupy a Jacobean townhouse visited by 'Bonny Prince' Charles Stuart in 1745.

It was also good to meet the people associated with the buildings. Attendants at permanent museums primarily guard the exhibits, typically in silence, whilst professional guides can be knowledgeable but disengaged. That's not quite the same as being shown Masonic temples by a Lodge Secretary, or a school chapel (larger and more ornate than a typical parish church) by a teacher, or a partially-disused church by the people who voluntarily maintain the building week-to-week, or even just talk about the weather with the inhabitant of an 18th Century Almshouse – not a re-enactor but a real resident. Personal involvement does add something.


Yes, it's a great weekend isn't it. I *still* haven't got round the Masonic Hall. Only been here 23 years!

Posted by looby at September 11, 2006 09:00 PM
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