Kent architecture

Kent’s landmarks that are only open to the public on Heritage Open Days you can visit for free in September

England’s biggest celebration of history and culture returns this autumn with Heritage Open Days.

Hundreds of historic sites and cultural highlights across the country will be open to visitors free of charge on selected dates this month, including 163 right here in Kent.

We’ve selected a handful of buildings taking part in County Open Days which are usually closed to the public, giving you the chance to experience a slice of Kent’s rich heritage that you may not see again.

For a full list of participating venues, click here.

Visitors can view rarely seen parts of Kent’s archives during this year’s Heritage Open Days at the Kent History and Library Center in Maidstone

Behind the scenes at the Kent Archives, Maidstone

This month, get a behind-the-scenes look at one of the county town’s fascinating attractions. Inside the Kent History and Library Center is the Kent Archives, which will be open for bespoke tours where visitors can discover hidden spaces and gain insight into the work of the Archives team. You can explore the archive work room, conservation studio, camera room and hear expert commentary on the HODs Inventors exhibition, focusing on Kent’s innovative inventors of the past.

When: Saturday September 10 at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. You must pre-book your visit by calling 03000 420673 or emailing [email protected]

Hop pickers enjoy spending time in the Captain's Garden in Deal.  Photo: Stephen Wakeford
Hop pickers enjoy spending time in the Captain’s Garden in Deal. Photo: Stephen Wakeford

Captain’s Garden at Deal Castle

Although you can visit Deal Castle all year round, restoration work on these beautiful private gardens has only recently begun. Originally created around 1733 as an ornamental vegetable garden for Admiral John Norris, the Captain of Deal Castle at the time, the space has since been used as war estates and as a market garden. However, since the 1980s the garden has been neglected and left to overgrow. Today the grounds are slowly being brought back to life by members of Deal Hop Farm, who will be on hand alongside English Heritage volunteers to explain their work and the history of the site.

When: Sunday September 18 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. No reservation required.

Cliftonville Cultural Space (the shul), Margate

Open for the first time since 2017, this future community hub allows visitors to see the first stages of its exciting restoration. The Old Synagogue in Margate, built in 1929, is being transformed into a multi-arts space after being desecrated in 2017. For the past five years its doors have been firmly shut, but it has remained a popular example of the region. cultural heritage. The historic building is being transformed into a space for the whole community to enjoy, and Heritage Open Day visitors can take a guided tour to see architectural plans for its development in the months and years to come. come.

When: Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September and Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. No reservation required.

Previously hidden features will be on display at Hoppers in Tonbridge.  Photo: Heritage Open Days
Previously hidden features will be on display at Hoppers in Tonbridge. Photo: Heritage Open Days

Hoppers, Tonbridge

Although it was nearly destroyed by extensive flooding in February 2020, this historic building has been given a new lease of life and is ready to welcome visitors back through its doors. Since a major refurbishment to repair flood damage, incredible features such as quality fireplaces, traditional oak beams and original pub cladding have been uncovered and are now on display for all to see. This self-catering accommodation has a rich hop-picking heritage and once provided refuge for sick workers as Hospital Hoppers. During the open days, you can learn more about the building’s uses over the years with tours, photos and historical documents.

When: Friday September 16 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday September 17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Sunday, September 18 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. No reservation required.

Nash Mausoleum in Farningham, Sevenoaks

Part of the Church of St Peter and St Paul, a Grade I listed building that has stood in the village of Farningham for nearly 800 years, this unusual mausoleum is something to behold. The dome is surmounted by a four-legged obelisk and topped with a carved flower, and is believed to have been built by an inexperienced architect in the 1700s due to inconsistency in style and aesthetics. The exterior of the building was restored in 1988 and both inside and out it retains many fascinating inscriptions dating back hundreds of years.

When: Sunday September 18 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. No reservation required.

Sheerness Dockyard Church is nearing the end of an £8million renovation project.  Photo: Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust
Sheerness Dockyard Church is nearing the end of an £8million renovation project. Photo: Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust

Restoration of Sheerness Dockyard Church, Sheerness

Visit this magnificent Georgian building and learn how Sheppey’s iconic landmark is being transformed for a new generation. The Grade II listed church, which was built in 1829, was damaged by fires in 1881 and 2001, but remains a striking example of Palladian architecture and design with some original features such as cast iron columns. However, the impressive new restoration is set to transform this former church into a business start-up center for young entrepreneurs, a café and a Great Dockyard model exhibition, and visitors can take a first look at the changes made before the official. opening date later this year.

When: Saturday September 17 from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. No reservation required.

The Twitch Inn will be filled with RAF memorabilia, including uniforms and artifacts.  Photo: Chris Mercer
The Twitch Inn will be filled with RAF memorabilia, including uniforms and artifacts. Photo: Chris Mercer

Search The Twitch Inn

It’s only open for three days, but there’s plenty to do at the Twitch Inn in September. The former RAF West Malling Officers’ Mess House provided refuge and respite during the Second World War, and will showcase its wartime history with a collection of rare RAF memorabilia. There will also be a new exhibition on Town Malling Football Club, which received support from local fans from 1885 to 2017, and cartoons by David Langdon, as well as exhibitions on the Malling Asylum, Motherwell and other points of interest nearby.

When: Sunday September 11, Saturday September 17 and Sunday September 18 from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. No reservation required.

351 High Street (Chatham House) in Rochester, pictured as the homewares store in 1928. Image: Historic England
351 High Street (Chatham House) in Rochester, pictured as the homewares store in 1928. Image: Historic England

351 High Street (Chatham House), Rochester

Born from JT Featherstone’s innovative idea of ​​creating a county main street in Medway in 1904, Chatham House was once the city’s go-to housewares and furniture district. Originally built in 1740 as a mansion for Isaac Wildash, Rochester MP James Hulkes eventually took over the house and its adjoining brewery which produced Lion ales. Brewing finally ended in 1912, when JT Featherstone saw the opportunity to turn it into a shop. Trade only stopped here in 1983, and the building has fallen into disrepair ever since. It was recently restored, but visitors can still learn all about its fascinating and diverse history during the open house.

When: Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September and Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. No reservation required.