Europe’s open, we’re shut


The annual Heritage Open Day weekend is looming and there is a lot to explore within striking distance of Rye between September 11-14. The UK part of the European Heritage Day event offers free access to buildings that are normally closed to the public or for which an admission fee is charged.

Winchelsea offers the closest places to visit from here and Rye News’ hot pick is Blackfriars Barn Cellar on Rectory Lane. This site is owned and operated by the National Trust and it’s cellar includes medieval etchings of a fleet of ships. Tours are being run on Saturday 13th at 11am and 2pm and on Sunday 14th at 11am. If you are in Winchelsea on the Saturday, be sure to visit Wesley’s Methodist Chapel immediately opposite between 10am and 5pm; and on  Sunday pop into Winchelsea Court Hall and Museum (open 1-5pm) and St Thomas of Canterbury parish church (open 10.30am- 6pm).

Further afield Hastings has a lot on offer including guided tours of the the Stade, a talk about the pier and its planned reopening in 2015, and a walk along the seafront at St Leonards. The Jerwood Gallery is running a special view of artworks produced during and around the first world war and Hastings’ town hall is open for tours on Sunday.

Hastings’ Old Town has lots of wonderful buildings to admire including the Bohemia Ice House and Walled Gardens. Many of Hastings unique and fascinating churches are open, including Old St Helens, St Mary in the Castle and Christchurch Blacklands, some of which are open all year round with almost all offering additional access, information and special displays.

For those who like nothing more than prying into other peoples’ homes St Benedict, a private home and bed and breakfast in St Leonards, looks well worth a snoop – private homes that are of architectural interest are included in the project. St Benedict is a High Victorian fully restored seaside villa that will have a special installation for the weekend of photographs and small mechanised Indian inspired sculptures. Sounds intriguing! Some of the buildings require booking in advance. Check the details here.

But lets confront the elephant in the room. The big question is: why aren’t there any buildings in Rye to visit? Not a single building in Rye is participating in this event even though we have many fascinating and unusual examples of fine architecture here. We asked the organisers why that was, and they said it was “your fault”. Well to be fair, it’s all our fault. Typically buildings to be included in the scheme are nominated by local people, organisations or councils. Once a building is accepted Heritage Open Days work with the building’s owner to agree access time, and arrange free insurance as well as organising lots of publicity and information.

In terms of nominating and persuading building owners to open up, that’s down to us. If you would like to suggest a building in Rye you would be interested in visiting next year, get in touch with us and we will do our best to make it happen.