St Edmund’s Church: Sheila Whittle-Bruce

My Heritage Open Days

For our History Fair and Fun Day in 2011, we filled St Edmund’s Church in Downham Market, Norfolk, with local history and community groups and offered trips up the bell tower.

Outside the church, we had traditional games such as a coconut shy, splat the rat, hook-a-duck and the village stocks (complete with Rector). Anglo-Saxon re-enactors set up a living history encampment in the Rectory garden. There was a beer tent courtesy of local brewer Tony Hook from the Wissey Valley Brewery. Commissioned by our Rector, Father James Mather, Martyr's Blood real ale (tinted with local blackberries) was launched on the day.

The Tenor Ladies Acappella Quartet provided musical entertainment. Our local MP Elizabeth Truss judged a historical costume dressing up competition. And the Riding for the Disabled Association at Wallington provided ponies to pet. There was really something to do for everyone.

Why I take part

We wanted to open the church to the public to raise its profile, especially as we are fund-raising for “St Edmund's Needs a £Million” for its “Church Accessibility and Improvement Project.” I am the church archivist and passionate about local and family history.

How Heritage Open Days made a difference

Heritage Open Days gave our church community another way to pull together, by hosting an event. On a personal level, I gained in confidence and learned some new communication skills.

Favourite Heritage Open Days moments

I was on the welcome desk for the majority of the morning, and it was lovely to welcome people and see their smiling faces. The highlight of the day was just before mid-day, when Anthony and Cleopatra arrived for the children's historical dressing-up competition. A brother and sister, who were so obviously delighted with the whole affair.

Advice to first-time participants

Use all means of communication to let people know it's happening. Advertise it well locally, in the newspapers, on local radio and with posters around the vicinity. Use the internet as much as possible too, use facebook and twitter to get the message out, AND HAVE FUN!!