English Heritage welcomed visitors back into its historic buildings from 17 May 2021. As well as opening 23 sites for the first time this year, on 17 May the charity extended access to the interiors of more than 50 of its properties which were previously open to visitors as outdoor spaces only. To ensure a safe and enjoyable visitor experience, both members and non-members must book in advance for a specific date and time slot via the English Heritage website.
The 23 sites which opened on 17 May include castles such as Portchester and Orford Castle, Wellington Arch, Berwick Barracks and Lullingstone Roman Villa. Meanwhile, larger properties including Osborne on the Isle of Wight and Dover Castle in Kent will be extending their visitor offering to include inside spaces.
Numerous properties have also undergone renovation or made new acquisitions since closing late last year. Kirby Hall in Northamptonshire has undertaken a new interpretation to bring the Elizabethan country house to life, whilst Audley End House in Essex has acquired a long-lost portrait of its former owner, spotted by chance at auction.
Kate Mavor, English Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: “Everyone at English Heritage has been delighted and touched by the support of our visitors and members since we began to open up our sites in March. We’re excited to once again start opening the doors to our historic buildings, to show visitors what’s been going on since they last visited and begin looking ahead to a great summer season.”
One of England’s finest country houses, Audley End is a Jacobean style mansion that gives a unique insight into what life was like above and below stairs at a Victorian country house. Wander the glorious state rooms and family’s private apartments, before exploring the service wing with its historic kitchens, dairy and laundry rooms.
A 19th century Grecian manor house, medieval castle and 30 acres of outstanding Grade I listed gardens welcome visitors to Belsay. The whole ensemble was created by one family, The Middletons, over the space of seven centuries.
Once a favoured medieval palace and then a Tudor royal residence, Eltham Palace was transformed by eccentric millionaires, the Courtaulds, in the 1930s. Their stylish home incorporates original medieval features into an otherwise ultra-modern art deco design.
From the Romans to the World War II, Dover Castle is jam packed with history. Standing atop the iconic White Cliffs, with views across the Channel, the Castle is dominated by Henry II’s might medieval Great Tower. Explore the secret wartime tunnels, walk the battlements and mighty defences, discover the oldest surviving lighthouse in the country, and stretch your legs and imagination at one of England’s greatest fortresses.
Charles Darwin lived with his family at the delightful Down House for 40 years, working on his revolutionary theories. Step into the very rooms where Charles Darwin conceived his greatest ideas, including the study where he wrote ‘On the Origin of the Species’, and discover a fascinating exhibition about his work.
With spectacular views over Derbyshire, the fairy-tale Stuart mansion Bolsover Castle was designed to entertain and impress. Created as an extravagant retreat by playboy, poet and courtier Sir William Cavendish, the labyrinth of sumptuous rooms are a treat for the senses with richly coloured wall art, carved marble fireplaces and stunning painted ceilings.
The palatial former holiday home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Osborne’s architecture and furnishings reflect their passions, taste and style. Explore the sumptuous state rooms, where the Queen entertained her important guests, before peeking into the private world of the family rooms.
One of England’s finest Elizabethan and 17th century houses, Kirby Hall was once owned by Sir Christopher Hatton, Lord Chancellor to Queen Elizabeth I. Although partially roofless, the walls show the exceptionally rich decoration of successive owners at the forefront of architecture and design. The property has just undergone a new interpretation including a new exhibition with never-before-seen objects and family trail.
An elegant Georgian villa on the boundary of Greenwich Park and Blackheath, Ranger’s House has recently been a setting for the hit Netflix show Bridgerton. The property houses The Wernher Collection, a world-class art collection with over 700 pieces of art on display.
Once a Tudor artillery fortress, Walmer Castle later became a stately home for the Lords Warden of the Cinque Ports, including the Iron Duke of Wellington. His bedroom, the Wellington Room, looks just as it did when he lived at the castle, containing the armchair in which he died and his campaign bed.
A full list of open English Heritage sites can be found at www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/plan-your-visit/