10 not to be missed events in Newcastle Gateshead during Heritage Open Days

'Heritage Open Days' is back for 2023, with dozens of buildings across Newcastle and Gateshead not normally accessible to the public, set to open their doors. In addition to these exclusive, not to be missed cultural experiences, some of the city's most popular landmarks and attractions are offering the chance to experience their enriching historic and cultural offerings for free. 

What is 'Heritage Open Days'?

'Heritage Open Days' is England's largest festival of history and culture, involving thousands of local volunteers and organisations. Every year in September it brings people together to celebrate their heritage, community and history. Stories are told, traditions explored, and histories brought to life.

When do they take place?

This year, they are taking place from 8-17 September 2023 with a host of exciting events and experiences happening every day. We recommend checking the date and times of your chosen event with the attraction or museum before setting off.

Which attractions are taking part in NewcastleGateshead?

Some of NewcastleGateshead's biggest and best attractions are taking part during Heritage Open Days, including Victoria TunnelBessie Surtees House, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art and Newcastle Cathedral to name a few, along with the likes of the historic Newcastle Guild Hall opening its doors for the festival of history and culture. You can discover the full list of events and attractions taking part closest to you here.

With so many interesting events taking place across Heritage Open Days, we've created a list of 10 not to be missed events in NewcastleGateshead to get you inspired.

1. Buddle at 250 Celebration: The Common Room

The Common Room are opening their doors and displaying highlights from our John Buddle archive collection, to commemorate 250 years since the birth of ‘The King of the Coal Trade’, a central figure of the industrial revolution.

They are offering the public the rare opportunity to explore the archive collection and gain insight into the fascinating life of John Buddle through documents including his handwritten diaries, notebooks and personal papers. The Common Room holds one of the world’s largest, most comprehensive, public collections on mining engineering and the development of the coal industry.

When is it taking place?

Wednesday 13 September: 10:30 -15:00. Pre book here. 

2. Grainger Market

The Grainger Market is our city’s largest traditional covered market in the heart of Newcastle. Opened in 1835, you will find it in the Grainger Town area of the city in a purpose-built, elegant and classically styled Grade I listed building. Take part in a tour of the Grainger Market including the newly renovated roof completed in May 2023. 

The tour will be split into two sections with the main market and the roofed arcade area.

When is it taking place?

Friday 8 September: 1300-1400
Saturday 9 September: 1300-1400
Monday 11 September: 1300-1400
Tuesday 12 September: 1300-1400
Wednesday 13 September: 1300-1400
Thursday 14 September: 1300-1400
Friday 15 September: 1300-1400
Saturday 16 September: 1300-1400

Booking Contact: jane Rose
Call: 01912115512
Email: jane.rose@newcastle.gov.uk

3. Victoria Tunnel Taster Tours

The Victoria Tunnel is a hidden engineering marvel, snaking two miles beneath Newcastle's streets. Come along to get a sneak peek at life in an underground Victorian waggonway, and see its rich history is brought to life with free guided tours. For Heritage Open Days 2023, Ouseburn Trust would like to welcome you to free guided taster tours of the Victoria Tunnel.

The Victoria Tunnel is a preserved 19th century waggonway, running under the city of Newcastle from the Town Moor to the Tyne. Originally built in 1838 by engineer William Gillespie to to transport coal from Spital Tongues Colliery to the river, the Tunnel was converted in 1939 into an air raid shelter to protect thousands of Newcastle citizens during World War II - but was then sealed up and left forgotten for 60 years. In 2008 the Victoria Tunnel was carefully repaired and opened for guided tours with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, led by the Ouseburn Trust's award winning volunteer guides.

Tours will last around 20 minutes, with a chance to see the bowels of the city for yourself. Learn what life was like for the clay-kickers who built the tunnel, listen out for the rumble of distant coal waggons, and marvel at a creative yet hidden feat of Victorian engineering.

When is it taking place?

Thursday 14 September: 12:00-16:00

No booking required

4. Tour of Blackfriars

Enjoy a 45 minute tour of Blackfriars unique 13th century former-Dominican friary's heritage with a walk through it's medieval spaces and an explanation of its past to present.

Guests should meet in the Blackfriars Parlour Bar or outside in the Cloister Garden. A brief introduction will be given before a guided tour through the domestic buildings, banquet hall, church foundations, and guild hall meeting rooms, now Blackfriars tasting rooms and cookery school. The tour will finish in the former refectory which now acts as the restaurant dining room for guests to either enjoy a pre-booked award-winning lunch (please book though the restaurant's website) or move onto their next HOD event.

When is it taking place?

Friday 8 September: 1100
Friday 15 September: 1100

Pre-booking: Required
Main site is free to explore but the talk must be pre-booked

Call: 01912615945
Email: info@blackfriarsrestaurant.co.uk

5. Then and Now: Ouseburn’s Green Spaces

Compare and contrast Ouseburn's green spaces then and now in a rare archival exhibition. Explore the path from industrial quarter to conservation area across the 20th century, then take a stroll to solve the clues in our trail book.

For Heritage Open Days 2023, Ouseburn Trust would like to welcome you to an exhibition of rarely-glimpsed images from the our archive. The exhibition will directly compare images taken from the same point of view during the early days of the 1900s up to now, showing the radical transformation of the area's natural environments across time.

Historically, the Ouseburn Valley was the cradle of the industrial revolution in Newcastle: coal was brought to the Tyne along the Victoria Tunnel, and clusters of glass, lead, iron, soap and lime factories crowded beneath a series of rail routes beside mills and potteries. By the middle of the 20th century, the area had fallen into dereliction, and was heavily marked by the intensity of industrial activity. Today, however, it is part of a wildlife corridor and an area of notable ecological value.

Come and explore the shifting landscape and environmental heritage of the Ouseburn Valley, including:

- The original grand plans for City Stadium that led to its name, now a mellow green space well-used by local residents.
- The former Quayside Branch railway cutting, now a precious wild habitat.
- The construction of the Ouseburn Culvert, now home to a bandstand and meadow at its entrance.
- Views of Victorian terraces and industrial buildings, now places where people meet and animals graze.

Then set off to explore the green spaces for yourself with our trail book, and see if you can follow all the clues to make it all the way around!

When is it taking place?

Tuesday 12 September: 13:00-16:00
Thursday 14 September: 13:00-16:00

No booking required

6. Sir Terry Farrell Archive Showcase

A showcase of archive materials from the Sir Terry Farrell architectural archive collection at the Farrell Centre.

Newcastle University Special Collections and Archives are the current custodian of the Sir Terry Farrell Archive, a collection of architectural material relating to the life and work of globally-renowned architect Sir Terry Farrell. Sir Terry Farrell lived in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and studied architecture at Newcastle University.

If you ever wondered about the shape of the Centre for Life, what Sir Terry envisioned as possible architectural designs during his student days, or how he found creative solutions to revamping listed buildings, then this small exhibition may be just for you.

When is it taking place?

Friday 15 September: 1200-1500

No booking required

7. Ouseburn Heritage Open Mic Night

Celebrate the history of the Ouseburn Valley through the medium of song, speech, dance and drama. Come along to hear and see the heritage of the valley brought to life, or head onto the stage to bring it to life yourself!

The Ouseburn Valley has had a long history as a hub for pubs and entertainment, and carries on in this tradition today. To celebrate this history, Ouseburn Trust would like to invite you to a heritage-themed open mic, hosted by The Cumberland Arms.

What do we mean by heritage-themed? We're using a very broad definition of heritage, and want hear from performers anything that is important or interesting to them about the history of the Ouseburn Valley. Heritage can include the natural environment, the cultural environment, buildings, landscapes, places, wildlife, objects, people, traditions, knowledge, stories and experiences. The particular heritage and collective memory of Ouseburn comes from the people who live, work and play there -- so come along to share it!

That means all sorts of subjects are welcome -- if you have a favourite tree, come and talk about it! Join us from 7pm for an evening of song, dance, drama, research presentations, skill-sharing, poems, storytelling, comedy, and anything else performable. Get up on stage, or get comfortable and enjoy the atmosphere in historic Cumberland Arms pub.

When is it taking place?

Thursday 14 September: 19:00-21:00

No booking is required. 

8. Newcastle Civic Centre

This tour views all the public areas of the Civic Centre. So pass through the shadow of the magnificent bronze casting of the River God Tyne, and into the most prestigious building in the city for a truly unforgettable red carpet experience. Newcastle Civic Centre is a venue like no other. It is a combination of our rich history, long lasting traditions, flexibility, and authentic modernist architecture, making it a true modern classic.

You will take a route from the Reception area through to the Garth (the garden in the quadrangle) then the Banqueting Hall on the ground floor - up the grand staircase to the committee suite on the 1st floor and – the Council Chamber, Pandon Room and then take the lift to the Carillon Tower where the tour ends. The guide will accompany you out of the building and back to Ceremonial Way.

When is it taking place?

Friday 8 September: 14.00

Pre-booking: Required from this link

9. Lit & Phil Behind the Books Tour

Spend up to an hour in the company of expert volunteer guides who will give you an insight into one of Newcastle's hidden gems the Lit & Phil.

Founded in 1793, but at home on Westgate Road since 1825, the Lit & Phil is an independent library and educational charity with an illustrious history. From demonstrations of inventions such as the incandescent light bulb, to welcoming speakers such as Oscar Wilde, the Lit & Phil stands out as a unique institution in the North East. Past presidents include Robert Stephenson, Joseph Swan and Charles Parsons. Find out about the Egyptian mummies that once resided in the building as well as the wombat and other creatures that were part of the Lit & Phil's museum. Today, with a library of over 180,000 books as well as scores and recorded music, the Lit & Phil also offers a wide range of public events and activities such as lectures, concerts and readings.

When is it taking place?

Saturday 9 September: 10.30am 11.30am
Monday 11 September: 6.00pm
Friday 15 September: 10.30am

Pre-booking: Required
Booking Contact: Kay Easson

Call: 0191 232 0192
Email: keasson@litandphil.org.uk

10. Bessie Surtees House

Join Historic England to experience the grandeur of this Jacobean mansion house that was the scene of a romantic elopement one chilly November night in 1772. On Saturday only, see some of the private rooms on a booked guided tour.

There is a dressing-up box, colouring sheets and a trail for children. There is stair access only throughout the building and the public rooms are on the first floor. There is an architectural model of the building at reception and an accessible collection of information with large print copies of the guide book, photographs of the rooms and tactile items of some of the carvings found in the house.

When is it taking place?

Saturday 16 September: 10:15, 11:15, 13:15 & 14:

Pre-booking: Required. Public rooms are free to explore any time. The guided tour of private rooms must be pre-booked.
Booking Contact: Heritage Open Day Tours
Call: 0191 4031635
Email: Northeast@historicengland.org.uk

Don't miss your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences in NewcastleGateshead – and don't forget, it’s all FREE. You can discover the full list of Heritage Open Days events taking place in NewcastleGateshead here.

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