I’ve heard about Open Doors weekend in the past, but never got round to making the most of it. But this year I remembered to look it up. Falling on the weekend when my car was in for a service, it worked out really well. I would have a morning in Oxford to play with – N decided to stay on the farm, so I didn’t have to look out the child friendly events.
Open Doors is an annual event in September, held across the country. Heritage and community sites open their doors for free to the public. Some are never usually open, others cost to see them, but all have something interesting to see. Some you have to book in advance, others you can just turn up.
I fancied a university college tour, and a tour around Christchurch but the timings weren’t going to work for me. So I decided to go on a tour of the Town Hall. Oxford Town Hall is quite spectacular – I dance there – the main hall is beautiful, and I’ve also seen inside a couple of other rooms due to playing in concerts there as a child, so I was interested to see what else it had to show.
On arrival I just had to sign up to get my tour sticker, then waited for the slot. On the day we could also hear the military brass band preparing for their concert in the hall as part of Open Doors. We could hear them play as we were on the tour and did get to see a bit of their concert as well which was a treat. It took me back to the time I got to play clarinet with the Central Band of the Royal Air Force when they visited our school.
Our tour guide was lovely, a bit quiet and seemed a bit nervous, but she answered our questions and shared just the right level of information.
I didn’t know anything about the history of Oxford, but we heard about how it had a strong rich Jewish community who used underground tunnels below the former town hall building to move around the city without being robbed. The history continued through several rebuilds and enlargements of the town hall to the basis of what it is today. A huge building that incorporates courts, city council meetings and offices, the local museum, various halls for meetings and functions.
The current building was designed as part of an architecture competition. Needless to say the winner’s design was extremely pricy, the builder went bust before finishing it, and a whole lot of other problems happened before it was finished. Women and men entered through different doors, something which the females of our tour tutted about.
The war damaged the building, but it’s back built in splendour. The courtroom and council rooms were great to be able to sit wherever we wanted, and fiddle with the drawers, name plates and other interesting additions to the desks. The smaller (now-mostly function) rooms are a little dark and dreary without the light streaming in, but you can see the expense that must have gone into building it.
But the main hall is the spectacular one. Even though I’m used to being there in the evenings with fancy flashing disco lights, by day time it’s still as beautiful with its ‘cake icing’ style, blue paintwork, and amazing ceiling.
We caught the end of the concert – I do love a patriotic band concert, and yes they did do God Save the Queen and everyone stood up where they were sitting.
It was a lovely tour, learning lots about the local area. I got to investigate a building that I’m in frequently but knew nothing about before heading for a quick wander around Oxford and heading back to the garage.
I’ll definitely be looking out next year for the next Open Doors weekend in the hope of finding somewhere else new to see.
Did you get out somewhere new as part of the Open Doors heritage weekend?
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