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Satisfy your inner snooper during Dorset Architectural Heritage Week
If you’re the sort of person who comes over all unnecessary at the sight of a crenellated parapet, or who would kill for an oriel window, then this is the week for you!
From finials to fanlights, belfries to buttresses, all will be starring in the greatest architectural show on Earth. Well, outside London, anyway.
For DAHW is thought to be the biggest event of its kind in the country.
Ticketed venues and walks – where numbers or times are restricted – are going well, according to DAHW manager, Ian Utley.
“Coming out on top so far is the Voysey house,” he says, referring to the private, listed Studland property which was designed by the celebrated Arts & Crafts architect CFA Voysey.
“It’s popular because it’s a private house and visitors always like to see how other people live,” he says.
The one-off tour will look at the building’s latest extension and only has room for 20 people.
Also popular is the tour of Dean Court; “Purely because it’s not open very often and people just get to see the grounds and not the house,” says Ian.
Highcliffe Castle is also playing a blinder, running tours in the evening so that day-workers need not miss out. One of the star attractions will undoubtedly be the chance to feel the shadow of Hanging Judge Jeffreys at Dorchester Old Crown Court and Cells, plus a re-enactment of the equally notorious Tolpuddle Martyrs trial.
There is further Arts and Crafts splendour – plus the opportunity to ask about funny handshakes if you feel that way inclined – at The Knole in Bournemouth, which was built in 1872 for an industrialist.
It retains a William Morris fireplace but is now home to the town’s Freemasons’ Lodge. The tour will include their meeting rooms.
There are guided walks, from Wonderful Westbourne – including a visit to the library’s secret cellar – and the Bournemouth Ceramic Walk, taking in the town’s top tiles. If you’ve only got a short attention span book yourself into the tour of the World War II pillbox in Blandford.
Small though it may be – only five visitors are allowed at a time – it’s also delightfully perilous, tin hats are provided and there is always the chance you could fall into the ha-ha, the Grade II-listed ditch which surrounds the area.
More than this there is the chance to discover many weird and wonderful facts about areas you thought you knew, from the story of Charminster’s threatened war with Kinson, a Bournemouth garden commemorating a battle of the Great War, and more about the mysterious 14th-century urn that once contained the heart of The Lady of Lydlinch.
The week – now in its 20th incarnation – is so popular, Ian says, because it appeals to our inner snooper and desire to see where we’re not usually allowed.
Many of the buildings can’t be opened routinely so it’s a chance for locals to look round buildings such as Blandford Cemetery Chapel, which they are familiar with but haven’t necessarily been into.
Ian won’t say which is his favourite: “I can’t get to see them all and it would be like choosing a favourite child,” but urges people to seize their chance.
“We just try and put together such a good programme that whenever you visit, you’ll have a great time,” he says.
Dorset Architectural Heritage Weeks takes place September 11-19, edht.org.uk/dahw.html
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