Winchester College

The oldest school in England can be found in the wonderful ancient town of Winchester, a place jam packed with historical buildings and all the stories that go with them. Thanks to the tireless work of a small local coordinating group, Heritage Open Days has been a key to unlocking some of those, including taking people behind the scenes of the beautiful Winchester College.

© Winchester College - “Thanks for unprecedented access to the hidden gems of Winchester” so said one happy HODs visitor!

Sarah Songhurst, Dep. Director of Communications at Winchester College, Hampshire

Why we take part

Visitors soak up sunshine as well as stories on a festival tour / © Winchester College

HODs is at the very centre of our mission to increase public access to our heritage.  Through HODs we have the opportunity to celebrate our rich history and offer visitors memorable experiences and insights into the past, which they would not otherwise be able to access.

What we do for HODs

Each year we offer a programme of ‘behind the scenes’ events in order to share with visitors all that makes Winchester College unique, from architecture, art, and treasures to the history and human stories of the oldest school in England.  We share the knowledge and passion of our experts to bring to life the distinguished heritage of this institution, and also offer talks from well-known academics and high profile speakers on a range of important topics.

The College (carefully!) throws open its historic doors to visitors for the festival / © Winchester College

The difference it's made

Our involvement with HODs has demonstrated to us the huge appetite the public has for finding out more about Winchester College and benefitting from its facilities and resources. It is wonderful to share the passion and delight that visitors have for our buildings, people and history, and to appreciate the unique benefit of offering experiences that are free to access. 

As a direct result of the increased visitor numbers we witnessed to our museum over the HODs weekend, we made the decision to offer free entry year-round to the Treasury. This has resulted in a much higher profile for the museum in the region, increased visitor interest in other areas, such as our guided tours and guidebooks, and a higher footfall for the exhibitions programme.

Through HODs and related partnerships we have been able to expand our network in the region, and increase our public presence. HODs has provided a gateway through which we are becoming more outward facing in our approach, with an events programme that is increasingly geared towards the public.

Nice surprise

We didn’t anticipate how much our own staff would enjoy the experience of volunteering for HODs. They are all very busy and the festival takes place at the start of term, which always has competing pressures, but we find that the overwhelmingly positive experiences of visitors mean that our volunteers offer their help year after year. It is surprising how quickly we’ve built a very loyal volunteer base.

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Sarah's Top Tip!

In your first year concentrate on hosting one or two events really well.  You can then build from there.

Inspired? Find out more...

Taking in the detail in the Treasury / © Winchester College