Heritage open days across Bedfordshire are free for all

Queen Anne's Summerhouse, Old Warden.
Queen Anne's Summerhouse, Old Warden.

Celebrate the county’s history and culture during September in a festival that is free to enjoy.

Heritage Open Days is England’s largest annual festival of history and culture with 5,000 events across the country over the weekends of September 6-9 and 13-16.

Bedfordshire can boast an ancient crypt linked to the family of Robert the Bruce, wonderful churches, railway heritage and a fascinating summerhouse with a royal seal of approval.

To celebrate 100 years since British women first got the vote, this year’s theme is ‘Extraordinary Women’, and many events will be uncovering and acknowledging local community heroines.

Visitors to Maulden can view the Ailesbury Mausoleum and Crypt in Church Road, open on Sunday, September 9, 3pm to 5pm.

Regarded as a fine example of one of the first mausolea to be built in this country with the earliest parts being built by Thomas Bruce, a descendant of the legendary Robbie, the first Earl of Elgin in 1656 as a memorial to his second wife, Diana, Countess of Oxford. The mausoleum, at St Mary’s Church, is in the care of Central Bedfordshire Council and managed by Maulden History Society and Maulden Parochial Church Council. www.mauldenhistorysociety.org.uk

>> Take a walk to the stunning Queen Anne’s Summerhouse on the Shuttleworth Estate at Old Warden, on Friday, September 7, Saturday, September 8 and Sunday, September 9, 10am to 4pm. The summerhouse dates to 1712 when Queen Anne knighted Samuel Ongley, who owned the estate at Old Warden. www.landmarktrust.org.uk

>> Guided walks will be held around Bedford for visitors to discover more about the people behind the historical plaques, on Saturday, September 15, at 11am, from St Paul’s Square.

>> At open days at the cemetery in Bedford, registers dating back to 1855 can be inspected, tours made of graves of general interest and more. Open Saturday, September 15, 11am to 4pm and Sunday, September 16, 2pm-4pm.

>> See displays and exhibitions of local history at St Paul’s Church, Bedford, on Saturday, September 8, 9am to 6pm.

>> The Victorian Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre is open throughout the event.