The popular Heritage Open Days ten-day festival, which is celebrated country-wide every year in September, was a sell-out in Farnham this year.
It is organised centrally by the National Trust which every year offers a theme, which this year was Creativity Unwrapped – a gift for Farnham, as a designated World Craft Town.
The programme took full advantage of it, presenting a total of 12 talks, nine guided walks and 19 special openings of properties large and small which vividly illustrated the quality of the architecture and culture of this historic town.
These ranged from big establishments like Farnham Castle, the University for the Creative Arts and Waverley Abbey House to the little Hones Yard in Downing Street, and included two of the town’s oldest houses, the 15th-century Old Vicarage next to St Andrew’s Church and a house in Wrecclesham which dates back to the late 14th century.
It was a very full week. The programme kicked off with a unique opportunity to see a collection of work by Pauline Baynes, illustrator of Narnia, Lord of the Rings and Watership Down, which attracted large crowds to the Town Hall where it was displayed.
It was accompanied by a talk by Roy Waight on her life and work which drew such a large crowd that it had to be relayed from the council chamber to a room downstairs.
In the week that followed there were ten more talks and nine guided walks, all presenting different aspects of the theme of creativity.
The growing popularity of Heritage Open Days in Farnham was illustrated by the fact that on the day that booking opened, 18 of the 25 events that required booking sold out in the first hour.
The first of two tours of the Herald’s headquarters at the Old Court House in Union Road sold out in just nine minutes!
Farnham Castle’s open day on the final day of HODs week attracted nearly 800 visitors to see inside the magnificent 900-year-old building and to be entertained by historic Civil War enactments, with wood-fired pizzas and cream teas on sale in the grounds.
The University for the Creative Arts showed visitors around its workshops and Waverley Abbey House, a magnificent Georgian mansion in a beautiful lake and riverside setting next to the ruins of the 12th-century Cistercian abbey also attracted visitors in their hundreds.
The Farnham Pottery in Wrecclesham had a week-long programme of activities and Farnham Museum showed off its Grade I-listed building and its garden with special activities and trails.
Heritage Open Days in Farnham gets more popular every year. It is organised every year by the Farnham Society, sponsored by the town council, and is a much looked-forward-to event.
Heritage Open Days co-ordinator