The Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, Surrey, was chosen as the venue for the South East launch of Heritage Open Days, which run over the weekend of 10-13 September. Heritage Open Days celebrate England's architecture and culture by allowing visitors free access to interesting properties and also includes tours, events and activities that focus on local architecture and culture. More than 2,700 properties will be opening their doors to the public - free of charge - as part of this huge four day annual event co-ordinated by the Civic Trust and English Heritage.
|`In the South East we are highlighting the fascinating links between places - the threads that together weave the rich tapestry of our multi-cultural past. I am particularly grateful to the hundreds of volunteers without whom none of the stories could be told this weekend.'
Dr Andy Brown, Regional Director for English Heritage in the South East:
The public will be allowed to wander around historic ice cream factories, football clubs, Elizabethan manor houses, tunnels, prisons and tax offices in the biggest voluntary cultural event in England. More than 2,700 properties, including 654 properties in the South East, will be opening their doors to the public free of charge as part of this huge four day annual event co-ordinated by the Civic Trust and English Heritage. Dr Andy Brown, Regional Director for English Heritage in the South East, commented:
`In the South East we are highlighting the fascinating links between places - the threads that together weave the rich tapestry of our multi-cultural past. I am particularly grateful to the hundreds of volunteers without whom none of the stories could be told this weekend.'
One of the perhaps more unusual choices this year is the Shah Jahan Mosque, Britain and northern Europe's oldest purpose built mosque. It was built in 1889 by Professor Gottlieb Leitner, a polymath, Orientalist and traveller the building work was largely funded by Begum Shah Jahan, ruler of the Bhopal State, after whom the Mosque was named. This beautiful Mosque stands as proud today as it did then one of the most prominent features of the Woking skyline.
The Shah Jahan Mosque will be open to the public over the weekend from 13.00 to 18.00 each day, with a number of activities taking place, including talks on the history of the Mosque, exhibitions on Islamic heritage and children's activities including colouring, word searches, treasure hunt and story telling.
Cynara Davies, Outreach Officer for English Heritage in the South East, said at the launch of this initiative last week at the Mosque:
`Heritage means different things to different people. Heritage Open Days are a unique opportunity in the year to find out which places and buildings are special to a diverse range of communities in the South East.'
A popular 'behind the scenes' tour with the local studies librarian who looks after Reading's Printed Heritage in Reading Central Library is one of the many other attractions. Elsewhere, the exclusive Yarmouth Castle, the last addition to Henry VIII's coastal defences completed in 1547, reveals paintings of the Isle of Wight and photographs of old Yarmouth.
Heritage Open Days are part of the European Heritage Days initiative, taking place across 48 countries. The spectacular event is also supported by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Council of Europe.
Other Heritage Open Day highlights include:
Bishop's Palace, Witney: Archaeological site of the remarkable remains of the 12th Century Bishop of Winchester's Palace plus an interpretation centre.
Brading Roman Villa: 3rd century Romano British villa of courtyard style with superb mosaic floors and artifacts from the excavation.
Calshot Castle, Southampton: Henry VIII built this coastal fort to command the sea passage to Southampton. Became fully manned artillery base in 1913 as port of RAF base.
Dimbola Lodge Museum, Newport: An illustrated talk on the Tennyson Circle by Dr Brian Hinton.
Ercol Furniture Ltd, Princes Risborough: Guided tours of this purpose built energy efficient manufacturing plant and showroom, located eight miles from the historic furniture town of High Wycombe.
Hovercraft Museum, HMS Daedalus, Gosport: Not normally open to the public, the museum holds the largest collection of hovercrafts in the world. A chance to view the most complete surviving WWI seaplane base in Britain.