Wirral Heritage Open Days promise fascinating experiences

This year’s theme for the national Heritage Open Days (HODs) is ‘creativity unwrapped’ and Wirral’s biggest heritage event will celebrate Wirral writers, musicians, painters, poets, potters, story tellers, landscape gardeners, stained glass artists and many more creative individuals.

Paul Smith of the Wirral History and Heritage Association (WH&HA) said,  “There’s an abundance of art, music and architectural gems to explore free of charge over 10 days this September.

“We have exceptional examples of talent and creativity throughout the Wirral peninsula to surprise, entertain and inspire you. Don’t miss this free festival of historical creativity. I guarantee you will discover something special at any of the fascinating venues taking part. ”

A selection of Wirral events include:

The Williamson Art Gallery & Museum, Birkenhead. during HODs the curator of the gallery will be giving two talks on the arts and crafts style Della Robbia pottery (1894-1906) the large collection is of  national importance.

At St Bridget’s church, West Kirby, the work of the renowned stained glass artist, Charles Eamer Kempe (1837-1907) can be viewed including the earliest example of his work (1870). In total 19 of his windows can be found in the church. In addition, the painted chancel arch and the iron screen are also of Kempe’s design.

Birkenhead Park, designed by Joseph Paxton and opened in 1847 was the first municipally funded park anywhere and a leader in park design throughout the world. A special exhibition – ‘Birkenhead Park, Creativity Unwrapped’ is being staged in the park’s Visitor Centre for the whole of HODs.  There are also guided history tours of the park.

Discover how Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception church, Birkenhead, was originally planned with the view of it possibly serving as a cathedral, it was designed on a grand scale by the architect EW Pugin and on his death by two of his brothers, Cuthbert and Peter-Paul. Though the building was damaged in the war there is enough of the original design remaining to appreciate the creativity of the three Pugin brothers.

The Swan Movie Makers, Higher Bebington, will be showing films from their archives and more recent productions on the local heritage of Wirral and Merseyside keeping cinematic traditions alive.

Bidston Observatory, Bidston, is staging creative workshops for families with small children to explore the history of this scientific site. In addition, it will be hosting guided tours and history presentations.

Callister Garden, Birkenhead, will provide music from the 175 Choir and the Kabukes Ukulele band alongside history displays.

Ness Gardens, Ness, will be offering a free guided walk and 75 free admissions to explore  one of the major botanic garden sites in the UK.

In Neston there is the opportunity to explore Holes in the Ground and how historic marl pits and railway cuttings have been creatively repurposed for leisure, recreation and wildlife.

The Friends of Hilbre Island will open two buildings on the island, explain the history and provide telescopes to watch the local seals.

St Mary & St Helen Parish Church in Neston features stained glass by Morris & Co designed by Pre-Raphaelite artist Edward Burne-Jones.

St Oswald’s Church in Bidston houses a mosaic of the Last Supper by Italian artist Antonio Salviati (1882) and another Burne-Jones window design supplied by Morris & Co. 

St James’ Church, New Brighton has murals and a roof painting by the artist Alfred Octavius Hemming. 

This is just a selection of the Wirral HODs all are free the WH&HA website lists over 70 Wirral sites involved in the celebration of local history between 8 and 17 September. Check out the local listings and brochure online at www.wirralhistoryandheritage.org.uk  or pick up a printed brochure available from local libraries, museums, venues and tourist information points. 

In England, the Heritage Open Days programme is coordinated by the National Trust with support from the People’s Postcode Lottery.

Full details of the national and regional programmes can be found at www.heritageopendays.org.uk

Locally the festival has been organised by the Wirral History & Heritage Association since 2009, with support from Wirral Borough Council.  

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