Special openings for Heritage Open Days

31 Aug 2012

As part of this year’s Heritage Open Days on September 6-9, CCT will host special guided tours at selected churches across the country.

These rare opportunities will take visitors on an intriguing journey through ancient churches dating back to the 12th century, bringing alive their history and culture. From St Peter’s Church in Marefair, Northamptonshire the most outstanding Norman church in the country, to the infamous leaning tower of Gloucester St Nicholas Church, known for its leaning, truncated white stone spire, and St John Baptist in Inglesham, Swindon, an ancient painting wonder saved by pioneering Victorian designer William Morris, these churches provide a treasure trove of ancient history.

A guided tour of the 900 year old gem St Peter's Church in Marefair, promises to transport visitors back to the era of Norman architecture with glorious carved treasures, plastered over in the 17th-century and carefully unpicked with a bone knife in the early 19th-century by local antiquarian Anne Elizabeth Baker.

The medieval St Nicholas Church in Gloucester, which was built for merchant traders beside Gloucester’s (now vanished) west gate, will host a special guided tour. Visitors will have the chance to discover its many interesting features including the Walton tomb, leaning tower, sanctuary knocker, squints, coat of arms and fine Jacobean carving. The existing church dates back to the 12th century, though most of it was rebuilt in the 13th and larger windows were added later.

Observe first hand exquisite wall-paintings conserved for over two centuries at the Church of St John Baptist in Inglesham, Swindon, and fabric dating back to at least the 14th century at the beautiful Grade II* listed port church, St Leonard-at-the-Hythe, Colchester, Essex. Meanwhile, St George's Church, Esher will open up access to the Newcastle Pew, built to designs by Sir John Vanbrugh for the 1st Duke of Newcastle.

The special opening of the charming flint-walled gem, Church of St Peter and St Paul in Albury, Surrey, will uncover the south chapel, remodelled in the 19th century by the renowned Victorian architect Augustus Welby Pugin, who was responsible for the interior of the Palace of Westminster. He used his rich and colourful style here to create a dazzling mortuary chapel for Albury Park's Drummond family. Lavishly decorated with stained glass, painted walls and ceiling, and a magnificent tiled floor, this church is a classic example of Pugin's eye for design and detail.

These are just some of the magnificent church buildings that make England unique. The proprietorial Chapel of St John the Evangelist, Chichester will welcome visitors to explore its unusual interior, arranged rather like a theatre, with an impressive triple-decker pulpit with a handsome staircase and elegant handrail taking centre stage with only a small and insignificant chancel behind.

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