Heritage open days for culture vultures

Eleven venues in Scarborough, Ayton, Cayton and Hunmanby are taking part in England’s biggest festival of heritage and culture, over two weekends.

The 25th annual heritage open days will run on 13-15 and 20-22 September.

This is when the public can visit buildings, or parts of buildings, which aren’t usually open to the public.

They include a cliff-lift machine-room and a few churches in the Scarborough area and, in the villages, a castle, a former prison and a penfold.

Trinity House, in St Sepulchre Street in the old town, was built in 1832 and is one of only four buildings of its kind in the country. The courtyard and boardroom, containing ship models, nautical artefacts, books, pictures and other archive material, will be open (14, 21 Sep 10am-4pm). The boardroom is lit by three chandeliers given by the Belfast descendants of Edward Harland (of Harland & Woolf fame). As a schoolboy, he watched “splendid East Indiamen of some 1,000 tons burden” being built at the Tindall family’s nearby shipyards.

Built in 1881, the cliff lift near the town hall is a Victorian funicular railway from St Nicholas Street to the seafront (13, 14, 20, 21 Sep 10am and 11am). It’s operated by Central Tramways, which says it carries almost half a million passengers a year. Besides having a peak in the machine room, visitors will get a free ride down to the seafront and back. Visits must be booked by emailing centraltramwaycompany@gmail.com. Website: www.centraltramway.co.uk.

Several events are taking place at St Martin’s Church, organised by its Friends group.

David Lewis will present an evening of poetry, drama and readings to celebrate the launch of his book One Day in December (13 Sep 7pm). Working with local Wilfred Owen historian Len Friskney, the author has linked together various aspects of the first world war and the ways they affected the town. The book covers the bombardment on the morning of 16 December 1914 (St Martin’s was hit by two shells), the effects of the war on local people and Owen’s war poetry, written in the town. No charge will be made for admission.

Complementing the book is an artistic response to the bombardment, a cyanotype entitled The Futility of War by Angela Chalmers, the church’s artist-in-residence; and an exhibition of photos and information about the bombardment of the area surrounding the church.

Running alongside them will be an exhibition on the life and work of Victorian photographer Oliver Sarony, with a continuous PowerPoint presentation. Born in Quebec, Sarony trained as a daguerreotypist in New York before travelling to England. He set up a lavishly decorated studio in Scarborough in 1857. People from all around the country, including the Prince of Wales, travelled to be immortalised. Although less known than his brother Napoleon, he was one of the more successful provincial photographers of his time. His colourful life included sharp practices to get people to part with their money. He was, however, a courageous man who nearly died when trying to rescue members of a capsized lifeboat in 1861, for which he received an RNLI medal for bravery. As his business brought a lot of money to the town, the square in which his studio stood was renamed Sarony Square; it is now St Martin’s Square.

The cyanotype and exhibitions can be seen from 10am-5pm daily from 13-22 September except on the two Sundays (1pm-4.45pm). The church café will be open throughout. Free 75-minute guided tours of the Pre-Raphaelite stained glass and decorations will be given at 10.30am daily except Sundays. 

The Maritime Heritage Centre boasts a huge trove of information on fishing and shipbuilding, wartime, churches, pubs, etc. The centre, in Eastborough, will allow visitors into its archives room to explore the many artefacts it has been given over the last 10 years (13-22 Sep 11am-4pm).

Chris Hall of Scarborough Archaeological & Historical Society will give a talk at St Andrew’s Church in Ramshill (13 Sep 2pm). The subject will be an old model of the medieval town, which is kept in the church. Chris says: “Scarborough was an important medieval town and this model shows the town at the height of its medieval development. It is a great visualisation”. The church, which has been described as a “cathedral of nonconformity”, will be open from 10.30am to 4pm, its cafe from 1.30pm.

The society is also organising another open day at Ayton castle, once a medieval fortified manor house. Visitors will be allowed in its ruined tower (14 Sep 10.30am-4pm). Chris will give tours of the wider setting of the castle at 11am and 2.30pm. The event will feature mini-digs for kids and a display of artefacts associated with the castle. Website: www.sahs.org.uk.

Cayton’s 12th century Norman church bears ancient graffiti and a pendulum clock installed in 1947 in gratitude for no-one from the parish being killed as a result of enemy action in either world war. Visitors will be able to access all areas except the tower, with or without a guide, but with a leaflet outlining the ancient features (20, 21 Sep 2-6pm). It’s being organised by Cayton Parochial Church Council.

As usual, Hunmanby, the largest village on the Wolds, is embracing the open-days event with its own heritage day, organised by the parish council (14 Sep).

The 19th century White Swan is mounting a before-and-after display about the campaign to stop it closing, from 11am. The former coaching inn and assembly room is on what was formerly the main route between Hull, Bridlington and Scarborough. It was the subject of the Save Our Swan campaign when the owner, Enterprise Inns, applied for planning permission for residential development. 

Three events are happening between 10am and 1pm.

1. The circular stone pinfold, once used to impound stray animals, and two-cell Victorian lock-up, nicknamed the Black Hole, at the junction of Stonegate and Sheepdyke Lane, will be open.

2. The local-history group is mounting a display at Wrangham House, a former vicarage which was home to the early 19th century archdeacon, literary figure, abolitionist and social reformer Francis Wrangham. An avid bibliophile, he built a new wing, now the hotel dining room, to house his large library.

3. Documents, photos and other items from the parish archives and a mid-19th century oil painting of the village will be displayed at the community centre in Stonegate.

Website: www.hunmanbyparishcouncil.com.

Booking is required only where stated.

Website: www.heritageopendays.org.uk.