Our top picks of the best Heritage Open Days events in Coventry

It’s that time of year when Heritage Open Days return to the city, championing all things local and cultural in Coventry.

Every September some 40,000 volunteers across England organise over 5,000 events to celebrate our fantastic history and culture, giving you the chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences for free.

We’ve picked out our top Heritage Open Days events going on around Coventry this week.

1. The Council House

Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Coventry’s Council House is a Grade II early Tudor style listed building, with rich heraldic decoration. It was built between 1913-17, but due to the start of the First World War was not officially opened until June 1920 by the Duke of York.

Heritage activities:

  • Opportunity to view the Council Chamber, Lord Mayor’s Hospitality Suite and Lady Mayoress’ Parlour
  • Guides available to talk through the history
  • Exhibitions and displays including Coventry’s involvement in Heritage Open Days over the past 25 years, a display of the Royal Navy warship HMS Diamond, which has strong links with the city and other historical information
  • The Women’s Research Group will be displaying information on Saturday 21 September
  • Films will be showing Coventry’s past and present in the committee rooms, along with photographs
  • Children’s heritage workshop in Committee Room 3 with ribbon weaving, pebble painting and make and take colouring
  • Sunday 22 September only – Medieval Musicians’ Blast from the Past will be delighting us with their mixture of music from the middle ages to the present day, with the opportunity to learn about the instruments they play

2. Draper’s Hall

Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm

Drapers’ Hall is Coventry’s finest Regency building. Built in 1832, the building has seen various uses throughout the years, from its original purpose as social rooms for the Coventry Drapers’ Company to the city’s magistrates’ court.

Unused for years, this will be a rare opportunity to view the intact magnificent early Victorian interiors before the building is converted into a music education and performance venue in 2021.

Heritage activities:

  • Tours available 11:00 am, noon, 2:00 pm and 3:00 pm. Tours last approximately 30 minutes and must be prebooked at here.
  • Visitors will also be able to view plans for the future use of the hall as a music and performance venue in 2021.

3. National Express Garage

Saturday 21 September: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Built in 1985, the National Express Garage (formerly known as Wheatley Street) was an amalgamation of two former bus garages in Sandy Lane and Harnall Lane.

Your chance to see the inner workings of a busy local transport provider and get up close and personal with the city’s big blue buses.

Heritage activities:

  • Not normally open to the public, National Express Coventry is opening its doors to show a unique ‘behind the scenes’ look at the workings of a busy local transport provider and the technology which supports the day to day operation.
  • Site tours, heritage vehicle rides, vehicle displays and rides through the bus wash. No booking required.

4. War Memorial Park Cenotaph Chamber of Silence

Saturday 21 September: 11:00 am – 4:00 pm

The Friends of the War Memorial Park are giving visitors a rare chance to see inside the 90-foot Cenotaph at the Chamber of Silence.

Heritage activities:

  • A chance to see inside the city’s historic memorial which is normally only open for Remembrance Sunday, and even then not accessible to the public.
  • A rare opportunity to view the Rolls of the Fallen which lists all the Coventry men killed in the two World Wars as well as more recent conflicts, usually stored at The Herbert.

5. Freemen’s Guild Room

Saturday 21 and Sunday 22 September: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm

The City of Coventry Freemen’s Guild was re-formed in 1946 with the assistance of the City of London Freemen’s Guild. The original Guild was formed in the 14th century but was disbanded by Henry VIII. The Freemen’s Guild Room occupies a chamber at the north end of the medieval Undercroft beneath St Mary’s Guildhall.

This atmospheric room, with some interesting carvings, dates from the 15th century when a row of shops on the site was demolished to make way for an extension to the Guildhall’s Great Hall and Undercroft.

Heritage activities:

  • Learn about the history of Coventry Freemen and what they do in modern times
  • Children and adults can engage with history and dress up to become a ‘Freeman for the day’

6. Coventry Cathedral

Friday 13 and Saturday 14 September: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday 15 September: 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm
Monday 16 September: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Tuesday 17 September: 10:00 am – 2:00 pm
Wednesday 18, Thursday 19 and Friday 20 September: 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday 22 September: 12:30 pm – 3:00 pm

The ruined Cathedral Church of St Michael stands as a symbol of the triumph of peace and reconciliation over the horrors of war and the urge for retaliation.

Designed by architect Sir Basil Spence following the bombing of the city in 1940, the New Cathedral was opened in 1962 and contains some of the finest examples of 1950s’ and ‘60s’ art and architecture in the country, including artist Graham Sutherland’s great tapestry ‘Christ in Glory’, one of the largest in the world, as well as Britain’s biggest collection of stained glass.

Heritage activities:

  • There will be the opportunity to see the collection of HMS Coventry artefacts in the Cathedral undercroft which are not normally accessible to the public.
  • Certain dates will have evening tours taking place with an opportunity to see the Cathedral at night.
  • Discounted St Michaels’ Tower climbs will also be on offer.