Published: 11:19, 08 September 2021
| Updated: 14:23, 08 September 2021
Historic sites across the county will be opening their doors for free as part of England’s largest festival of history and culture from this week for 10 days.
Running from Friday, September 10 until Sunday, September 19, hundreds of places and spaces that aren’t usually open to the public will be opening to visitors for Heritage Open Days. From family activities to evening experiences, this year’s programme has something for everyone - and it’s all free.
This year’s theme is Edible England. From woodland foraging to rustling up recipes, the event will explore the past, present, and future of our culinary heritage and culture.
We've picked some highlights across Kent to try...
Barsleys: From Tailor to Department Store: Four Generations
If you know Paddock Wood, you'll know the family owned department store, now in its fourth generation and more than 130 years of trading.
There will be a display of the archives of the store which has been part of the fabric of the town for many years, and the coffee shop will be open for refreshments from Friday, September 10 to Saturday, September 18 for Heritage Open Days. Find out more here.
Captain's Garden, Deal Castle
Historically it was an ornamental and a kitchen garden for the Captain of Deal Castle, before being neglected for a long time and more recently brought back into use. Members of Deal Hop Farms will be on hand to talk about their work and English Heritage volunteers will be there to explain the history of the site.
It will be open for Heritage Open Days on Sunday, September 19 between 10am and 2.30pm. No booking is needed. Find out more here.
Franciscan Gardens, Canterbury
Escape the bustle of the city centre in the recently-restored gardens. Inspired by the site's use as the first Franciscan friary in Britain, it's a hidden gem filled with symbolic planting, peaceful paths and the Greyfriars Chapel. You can visit for Heritage Open Days on Saturday, September 18 between 10am and 5pm. Booking is recommended. Find out more here.
Hawkenbury Allotments, Tunbridge Wells
Visitors will be taken on a guided walk of around half an hour to see the vegetables, fruit, flowers - plus hens raised on this normally closed site in Halls Hole Road.
Visitors will be welcomed on Saturday, September 11 and Saturday, September 18 between 2pm and 4pm and will be taken on a 30-minute walk to see the variety of produce tended on about 300 plots in the 'secret garden'. Details can be found here.
History of the Leas Lift, Folkestone
Learn about the history of the Leas Lift from its Victorian heyday and the planned restoration and future plans by the Folkestone Leas Lift Company CIC have for the restoration. Pre-booking is needed for the event on Saturday, September 11 at 10.30am, 11.15am, noon and 12.45pm. Find out more here.
Mote Park Hidden Histories
There will be lots going on in and around Maidstone for Heritage Open Days, including a weekend of exploration and discovery in the 250-acre park on Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12 between 10.30am and 3.30pm, including surveying the park and learning about its history. There is no need to book.
There will also be guided walks on Monday, September 13, Tuesday, September 14 and a Bat Tales late evening walk on Thursday, September 16. You will need to book for these by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
There’s also a rare chance to see a wall painting of a grand picnic, normally hidden from sight in Maidstone Museum’s Herbarium on Saturday, September 11 at 10.30am and 11,15am. Book via maidstonemuseum.co.uk
Youth Takeover at Theatre Royal Margate
On Saturday, September 11, to celebrate being back in the theatre after lockdown, the School of Acting will be staging a take-over of the Grade II listed Theatre Royal Margate for Heritage Open Days.
The young members of Theatre Royal Margate and Looping the Loop’s School of Acting will be putting on a day of fun activities for members of the public to enjoy running from 10am to 4pm. No booking is required.
Hospital of Sir John Hawkins, Chatham
Built on the site of Chatham’s Kettle Hard, a part of Bishop Gundulph’s Hospital of St Bartholomew, the almshouses today are a square of Georgian houses dating from the 1790s.
The charity has been providing accommodation on this same High Street site to eligible service personnel and civilians since 1594. There is also a small garden which looks out over the River Medway. You can visit on Saturday, September 11 between 11am and 4pm; Sunday, September 12 between 11am and 4pm and on Sunday, September 19 at the same times.
The county’s last medieval deer park, Knole was originally an archbishop’s palace, and is now in the hands of the Sackville family, as it has been since 1603.
Visitors for the open day on Thursday, September 16, can take a walk through the showrooms and see centuries of history within Knole’s world-class collection. Children can also explore with a special family trail and the chance to handle collections.
You can also visit the Gatehouse Tower and climb the spiral staircase to discover a former resident’s private rooms. Once you reach the top, you’ll be able to see out over Knole Park. Book here.
Sheerness Dockyard Church Restoration Open Day
On Saturday, September 11, there will be a hard hat tour of the church and the chance to find out more about the world-class restoration, as the Grade II listed building is restored as a business enterprise centre for young people.
Visitors can meet representatives from the trust and Coniston Ltd our principal contractors. There is no need to book for the event between 10.30am and 3pm. Find out more here.
Smallhythe Place - Digging the Past
One of this year's online events, you can watch a video of the excavations at the Tenterden site last year. See the trenches up close and personal in the clips by the National Trust, which will be available from Friday, September 10. Find out more here.
Tour of Fort Burgoyne and the West Wing
Intrepid heritage explorers will be able to uncover one of Dover’s forts, hidden from view, with rare access to Fort Burgoyne and the West Wing via a special guided tour.
You can learn more about the site’s history and fascinating stories from 10.30am to 2pm on Saturday, September 11. The event is free but you will need to pre-book your tickets here. You’ll need sturdy footwear, as the ground is uneven.
Van Gogh Potatoes & Herbs, Ramsgate
In honour of former Spencer Square resident, Vincent Van Gogh, sunflowers have been planted, along with potatoes and herbs as an homage to his painting The Potato Eaters and this year's edible theme. Visitors will be able to walk around the square, look at the bust of Vincent Van Gogh created by artist Anthony Padgett, and see his former home at 11 Spencer Square. The voluntary group, Friends of Spencer Square who maintain the garden, will roast the potatoes with rosemary and thyme and these will be available for visitors to eat as they wander around the garden. There may also be some Van Gogh children's art activities. The event is on Sunday, September 19, between noon and 3pm. There is no booking required. Find out more here.