The return of Heritage Open DaysPosted 7th September 2023
This September, Milton Keynes will once again mark Heritage Open Days with dozens of events taking place over 10 activity packed days.
2023 is the 17th annual HoD being held here, and it has grown considerably since making its debut in 2006 – back then we had just 15 events to choose from!
Heritage Open Days is an opportunity to engage with a wealth of activities for children and families, spanning exhibitions and workshops, walks and tours, open days and craft events and performances.
And at a time when the purse strings are being tightened more than ever before, it’s a delight to be able to say that every event can be enjoyed for free!
The full programme can be found at heritageopendays.org.uk but here we share some of the enticing events – and there are others listed in our What’s On pages. Dig deep and enjoy.
Friday, September 8
Love Freedom Ukraine is an exhibition being hosted at MK Central Library which will include pieces by refugee artists and children, which asserts Ukraine’s resilience during these terrible times, through its ability to imagine, ponder and create.
Pop in and view during usual library opening times, through to September 16.
Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre will be inviting you to explore inside too – and it’s worth taking a peek at this award-winning Victorian station house and booking office restoration in the Gothic cottage orné style, dating back to 1846. A museum, station master’s parlour, vintage tea room and gift shop also feature.
The centre will also welcome visitors on September 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 & 17, 10am- 4pm.
In Willen Village, picture perfect St Mary Magdalene Church, a Grade 1 Listed building designed by Robert Hooke, will be open. The church has been a place of worship for three and a half centuries, with the first worshippers welcomed inside way back in 1668.
Visitors will be able to learn more about the history of the church, the priory and the hospice.
A plant sale will be held daily from outside the church steps. Visit daily through to September 17, 10am-5pm.
Newport Pagnell Historical Society is opening its museum doors (at Chandos Hall, in Silver Street) with lots of new artefacts and exhibitions to view. They do a fab job of preserving the town’s rich history and you’ll learn plenty!
The museum is also opening on September 9, 10, 16 & 17, between 11am and 4pm.
Woburn Heritage Centre will host an exhibition of paintings by local creatives called Woburn Artists and Artisans. The pieces are by artists who have lived in the village for more than 50 years and show both the familiar and the unfamiliar views of the place they call home.
The C13th chapel will also be open on September 13, 14 & 15 between 2pm and 4.30pm, and on September 9, 10, 16 & 17 between 10am and 5pm.
Saturday, September 9
St Lawrence’s Church in Broughton is described as a time capsule of social, religious and political history, with its beautiful medieval wall paintings and chained books from the Reformation to the stunning Victorian stained glass windows. The 13th century church, now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust, is still consecrated and occasionally used for services.
It will be open between 10am and 1pm on Saturday, and again on Sunday, September 10.
If you want to make the most of the historical side of religion locally, Bow Brickhill Church & Tower, which in the main dates to the 15th century, will be open and it affords outstanding views from the top of the tower, if you have a head for heights. It will be open between 10am and 4pm, and tea and cake will be served.
St Mary’s Church in Bletchley – on the Church Green Road – is even older, dating to the 12th century, and boasts a Norman archway and medieval tomb. Pay a visit to the War Graves or just sit quietly in the restored historic courtyard.
St Mary’s will be open between 10am and 4pm, and again on Sunday, September 10, from 1pm to 4pm.
Passenham Church is dedicated to the 8th century Saxon saint Guthlac. It’s one of our most favourite historic churches, and visitors will be able to enjoy unique wall paintings, ornamental carvings, models and carvings from the English Civil War, bell ringing and talks about the historic 1000 year old history.
Open between 11am and 4pm (also on Sunday, September 10).
In Hanslope, 12th century church St James the Great will give tours. Here’s one for all your fact finders out there; it also boasts the tallest steeple in Buckinghamshire.
Open between 11am and 4pm (and again September 16, with tours at 11.30am, 1pm and 3pm).
MK’s Alina Orchestra will be bringing music to the MKHoD’s with a Band in a Van concert, delivering musical discoveries from the 1920s and the century that followed. The interactive concert at Kingston Library (11am-midday) promises that you’ll be toe tapping, arm waving and singing along. The motor will keep running with another session at MK Library (2-3pm). Time to tune up!
Charcoal artist Beck Gouverneur and Westbury Arts Centre resident artist Robin Souter, whose work is dedicated to atmospheric oil painting, present Charcoal Meets Oils at the venues’ Barn Gallery. The weekend event – also happening on September 10 – is open between 11am and 4pm.
Living Archive presents The Point – Down Memory Lane, a celebration of one of MK’s most distinctive and best-loved buildings, and this display is being hosted inside the iconic former cinema. Pop along, remember, reminisce and enjoy – the event will run between 1pm and 4pm.
Bradwell Windmill is one of the last remaining windmills in Buckinghamshire still producing wholemeal flour, and it will be open for visits today and on Sunday, September 10, 1.30pm to 4.30pm both days. There is no need to pre-book, but be prepared to wait if it gets a little bit busy.
North Crawley Historical Society will lead you on a two hour field walk which will be at a gentle pace on grass footpaths in the main – with the odd stile.
Key aspects of the countryside around the village will be explored, and there will be a commentary on the field names and historically important features. Remember to wear proper footwear for this one!
Sunday, September 10
The chances are that you will have enjoyed a seat and a show at The Stables, the venue founded by jazz aces Dame Cleo Laine and Sir John Dankworth, long before now, but you won’t have enjoyed a tour behind the scenes, courtesy of the original architect. This is your opportunity to put that right.
Milton Keynes Synagogue Open Day is a chance to enjoy tours of the District Reform Synagogue in Great Linford, view the Torah Scrolls and take in a multi-media exhibition.
‘The Jewish community in Milton Keynes is nearly 50 years old and comes from a wide geographic area and from surprisingly varied ethnic origins,’ organisers said, ‘Besides the common factor of being Jewish, we are also European, Middle Eastern, North American and South African in origin, bringing together our different Jewish traditions.’
Pop along and get educated between 10am and 4pm.
Bradwell Abbey is holding a Medieval Family Fun Day with Chapel tours, guided site walks and the promise that a 12th century Grumpy Prior will be in the building!
Try have-a-go-archery before pitting your strength against the sword in the stone under the watchful eye of King Arthur! Herbalists will be in the herb garden, and medieval stallholders and re-enactors will add to the authenticity of the event. As will the mead!
Go medieval between 11am and 3pm.
Monday, September 11
Return to St Mary Magdalene in Willen for Sing & Chat with Willen Hospice choir, as the vocal aces entertain you during their weekly practice. The hour-long rehearsal begins at 1.30pm.
Tuesday, September 12
Living Archive presents Nightlife MK, a chance to revel in the memories of long-gone but fondly remembered nightclubs and venues including Zaoos, Austins and Ultra Vegas.
MK Central Library is the hosting venue, and the display runs daily until Saturday, September 16, during usual opening hours.
One of the longest-serving Parks Trust operatives will lead you on a tour exploring The History of the River Ouse, which will set off at 1pm from the car park at Manor Farm on Old Wolverton Road.
Participants will enjoy the walk and talk along the valley of the river Ouse, and you’ll return home knowing about the Motte and Bailey and how the Saxons shaped the landscape of the river’s ever-changing path.
Phil Marsh teams up with the Living Archive to present the talk, A Look at the Wolverton & Stony Stratford Tramway; century old plans have been discovered and this event will be their first public viewing. The talk will run from 6pm for an hour at The Old Bathhouse on Wolverton, and pre-booking is required. Visit the HoD website.
Churches, coaching inns and medieval fishponds make the Pilgrim Trail Walk – including the south section of Loughton Valley Park – an interesting and decidedly pretty one.
Meet in the car park at St Mary’s Church, Shenley Church End, for the 6.30pm start and a two-hour walk.
Wednesday, September 13
Guided tours of Bletchley’s Manor Road Cemetery will give you the opportunity to learn about the lives of the 22 casualties from the First and Second World Wars who are buried here, many of whom were residents of the Bletchley and Fenny Stratford areas.
This event will run between 10.30am and 11.30am, or on Saturday, September 16, from 2pm. Get more details by heading to
The Open University is a jewel in the crown of Milton Keynes, and there will be special displays in the Betty Boothroyd Library in the atrium, and in the Archive Research Room at the Walton Hall Campus. Visit between midday and 4pm, with no need to book.
But if you fancy a Historical Tour of the OU Campus, including a tour to St Michael’s Church and the University’s legacy garden (happening between midday and 1pm) you will need to book in advance.
Discover Bancroft Roman Villa with Guided Walks with a member of The Parks Trust education team. If there is enough time, there may be an opportunity to venture to the nearby Temple Mausoleum too. Dress suitably and pre-book your spot for one of the walks – choose from a 4.30pm start, or 6pm.
Thursday, September 14
Camphill MK Communities provides supportive living for 70 adults with learning difficulties and autism. Workshops include a weavery, ceramics studio and bakery, and throughout the day visitors will be able to see demonstrations of the heritage crafts.
Tours of the Chrysalis Theatre site in Willen Park will take place at 9.30am, 10.45am, 1.30pm and 2.45pm.
Milton Keynes Museum brings the history of the new city to life, with a hands-on approach, a full programme of events throughout the year, and exhibits galore.
For HoD’s the museum invites you to take a look inside for free – and you can sup up too, with the Beer Festival offering a choice of real ales and ciders.
Visit free daily through to Sunday, September 17, between 10.30am and 4.30pm.
In Olney, the Cowper & Newton Museum is holding an All-Day Cowper Poemathon with Cowper’s finest and funniest poems, and you can discover how the life events and personal experiences of his friend John Newton inspired him to write the world-famous hymn, Amazing Grace.
Pop along between 11am and 4pm.
Atmospheric Stanton Low – Ghosts of the Past will take you on an eerie evening walk around the spooky site, which takes in the ruins of St Peter’s Church and the remnants of the old Manor house.
Pre-booking is essential. Head to theparkstrust.com
Friday, September 15
Current members of the Rainbow Cottages in New Bradwell will reveal the history of the street and its current use, followed by a walk around the outside of the buildings.
Meet at 9 Spencer Street for a 10pm start – there will be another session on September 16.
Back at MK Museum, the MK branch of the Western Front Association will be in situ with a World War 1 display sharing details of local men including Wolverton’s Albert French.
What was life really like in the trenches? This is where you’ll find out.
Running through to Sunday, from 11am to 4.30pm daily.
As the stunning Boyd & Evans exhibition at MK Gallery nears its end, Fionnuala Boyd and Les Evans talk about 55 years of artistic collaboration in a documentary screening at the venue, from 2pm. Pre-booking is essential.
Saturday, September 16
Pop to Stony Stratford creative hub York House between 10am and 1pm for fun activities for all, a community cafe serving up refreshments, and the opportunity to put forward your thoughts about how it can continue to enrich the community.
Men In Sheds is a brilliant initiative, giving men the opportunity to be productive, find friendship and contribute to the community, as you might have read in a recent issue of Pulse.
They will be opening their facility at 30 Burners Lane in Kiln Farm to demonstrate activities including woodwork, metalwork, fabric work and 3D printing. A large model railway will also take attention.
Some products and surplus tools and materials will also be for sale, so remember your cash if you want to get involved in that.
Men in Sheds will welcome you between 10am and 4pm today, and tomorrow.
Over at Loughton Lodge, The National Badminton Museum has 29 new display cases showing the history of the game. Volunteers will show you around the museum and answer any queries.
Now here’s something that will ‘Bee’ good – a celebration of all things buzzy with the Westbury Bee Club in Shenley Wood (based at the Arts Centre), with information on beekeeping and all the associated activities and honey tasting. Visit between 11am and 4pm today and Sunday, September 17.
Sunday, September 17
On a (hopefully) sunny Sunday morning, what could be nicer than joining members of the Buckingham Canal Society on a Hedgerow Recipe Walk? The perfect way to learn while you love being outside. It’s also ‘a unique way to showcase the abundance of flora and fauna along the canal’, say organisers.
Participants will be taken on a guided walk to learn about the various plants and herbs present in the hedgerows – and you’ll receive recipes for snacks, teas, soups and desserts using those ingredients.
Pre-booking is essential – email firstname.lastname@example.org putting Registration For Hedgerow Walk in the subject line.
A Parks Trust guide will lead a walk around the ancient woodland of Shenley Wood (11am-12.30pm) and the listed 17th century manor of Westbury. A chance to discover the flora, fauna and unique features present there. Follow that up with a visit to the Arts Centre to relax or take part in the history tour.
Stowe Gardens, Parish Church, the Gothic Temple and Stowe House will all be open to visitors from 10am, giving a rare chance to see inside and explore the breadth of some of Stowe’s most iconic temples. Pre-booking is advised for the house and the temple. Visit their respective websites for more info.
In the heart of CMK there will be guided tours of the MK Rose at 2pm and 3pm, and Milton Keynes Brass will be live at Loughton Manor First School with a traditional bandstand style event spilling popular and light classics. Tea, scones and cakes will tempt you too. The event runs from 2.30pm-4.30pm.
So that’s a look into some of the many free opportunities making up this year’s Heritage Open Days, but there are also Self-Guided Tours & Trails and online events to engage with.
Keep checking the website, get out and about and be inspired by the place we all call home.