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More Festival Pioneers - Then & Now

With this year's festival almost upon us, now is another great chance to look back to the very first Heritage Open Days in 1994, ranging from old favourites still with us to exciting new events taking part for the first time.


Discover the fascinating story behind the unearthing of this skull on 'Rat Island' © - Operation Nightingale

Gosport Civic Trust ran the first pilot in 1992. Today, the Gosport HODs Commitee co-ordinates an extraordinary range of events.

Still with us… When Heritage Open Days officially began in 1994, Royal Clarence Yard was one of Gosport’s exciting offerings, giving visitors the chance to explore the site in a guided tour. Taking part again this year, hear the history of the site yourself – from the huge quanities of ale, rum, bread and meat that were produced at the Yard to provide for the Royal Navy, to the surviving original buildings, and Queen Victoria’s private railway.

New this year… In 2014, the storms that hit the south-coast revealed human remains on ‘Rat Island’, the small MOD-owned island between Gosport and Portsmouth. The island is believed to have been used in the 19th century as a burial ground for convicts. Emergency recovery work began quickly at the site with the help of ‘Operation Nightingale’, an initiative that aims to aid the recovery of injured military service personnel. This fascinating talk at a local church examines those involved in the excavation and their extraordinary findings.


Gaze up at the stunning ceilings on show at St Andrew's Church in Hove

As an early pioneer, the Regency Town House in Brighton has co-ordinated one of the festival's most vibrant programmes since it first opened its doors in 1993.

Still with us… For the first festival, The Regency Town House opened up 13 Brunswick Square for tours. 25 years later, and a huge expansion has taken place, with a number of unique, creative events taking place in and around this Grade I listed, 19th century house. Uncover the history of Regency Square, discover the ‘Here in the Past’ project, or strip back the layers of these old houses with talks on architectural paintwork and the problems of damp.

New this year… Just off the seafront sits St Andrew’s Church. Built in 1827 by Sir Charles Barry and designed in the Italian Renaissance style, explore this beautiful church that became ‘a little bit of Italy in Waterloo Street’, with a stunning painted ceiling, stained glass windows and 19th century monuments.


Pull back the curtain for a backstage adventure at the Bristol Old Vic

Since taking part as one of the first pilot events in 1993, Bristol Architecture Centre have been involved in organising an exciting and varied programme of HODs events.

Still with us… Unfortunately, we don’t have a directory with a full listing of events that took place in 1994 (if anyone does – let us know!), but we do know that Bristol Old Vic participated in 1995, and likely in 1994 too. Step behind the curtain at the oldest continuously working theatre in England. Venture around the theatre’s secret spaces, chat to the experts, or explore the backstage world to see how productions are put on.

New this year… Elsewhere in Bristol, hear it from the experts themselves at North End, Yatton, who are showcasing the archaeological finds from their recent excavations. Take part in artefact handling in fun activities for the whole family, and unearth the story about life on this important ridgeway over the last 4,000 years.

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