‘Heritage Open Days’ celebrates its’ 25th anniversary this year. Winchelsea’s event will be held on one day only – Saturday 14th September – with Winchelsea Archaeological Society (WAS) taking over the organisation from the Corporation.

The theme for this year concentrates on the town’s medieval religious buildings – three churches (St Thomas’, St Leonard’s and St Giles’s) and two friaries (Greyfriars and Blackfriars). The stained glass windows in St Thomas’ Church introduce us to some of the patron saints who were associated with these buildings.

People used to make pilgrimages (often organised by the friars) to visit the religious shrines of the saints and Winchelsea was on a pilgrim route by land to Canterbury and also across the sea en-route to Santiago de Compostella in northern Spain. Travelling could be dangerous if the weather turned stormy so travellers prayed to the saints to intercede on their behalf for good weather or to give thanks for a safe arrival.

• Four sites are open as last year, but there is an interesting addition – a tour to the Friary Church, Greyfriars at 2.30pm.

• Also, of special interest will be a display in the Lower Court Hall on the theme of the day; this will provide information to complement the tours of the Friary Church and Blackfriars Barn cellar. It will be open from 11am to 4.30pm. An illustrated talk with start times of 12 noon, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm will accompany this display.

• Tours of Blackfriars Barn cellar with its ship graffiti will be at 11am and 12 noon. The Stables, where analysis of pottery sherds found in Blackfriars Barn cellar is carried out, will be open from 11.30am to 1.30pm.

• The Methodist Chapel is opening from 10am to 4pm.

• Tea, coffee and cakes will be served in the Lower Court Hall in the afternoon from 2pm to 4.30pm.

Please look at the Heritage Open Days website if you would like more details of the sites mentioned and indeed for national events, as well. You may like to experience, a rare behind-the-scenes tour of the Prince Philip Maritime Collections at Royal Museums, Greenwich which is considered a ‘highlight’ event. This year the festival is running for ten consecutive days from the 13th to the 22nd September. Berni Scott