Hello and welcome back to Berwick Heritage Open Days 2021. It may be day 8 of HODS but this weekend is what it has all been building up to. This is the big one. Over the next three days buildings will be opening their doors to the public for free and many sites are very rarely open so this really is a wonderful opportunity. There is so much going on today that I don’t know how I will manage to explain it all! Lets start with a list of open buildings that you can visit.
In Person Activities
Old Coastguard Station
This site may be slightly out of the way but it is 100% worth a visit even if it is just for the views. The tower was built in 1964 but closed down several years later and became derelict. Now it is run and maintained by Berwick Coastwatch who keep an eye on local coastal areas as well as monitoring marine distress channels. Visit this tower near Magdalene Fields Golf Course to take in the scenery, chat to volunteers and see local wildlife. Open today 11am – 4pm.
Portrait of a Town
This exhibition has been open in the Granary Gallery for several months but for Heritage Open Days it has created a rolling slide show that relates to the HODS Edible England theme. The Portrait of a Town photographic exhibition has been created from a collection obtained from The Photo Centre photonews service upon the business’ closure in 2012. The collection offers a unique insight into life in Berwick and the surrounding area over the last 60 years. Open 11am – 4pm.
Berwick Holy Trinity and St Mary Parish Church
You may know the Berwick Parish Church because of its prominent position on the town’s walls. This building is actually far more historically important than you would presume as it is a very rare example of an Anglican Church that was built during the Commonwealth Period. The church was constructed using stone and timber from the disused Berwick Castle and was opened in 1652. The layout of the church is very unique as is its flat roof. Open today 12pm – 4pm.
The Gunpowder Magazine
Another familiar building on the town walls is undoubtedly the Gunpowder Magazine next to the Lions House. This purpose built ammunition store was constructed in 1749 to serve the nearby Berwick Barracks. The building was carefully designed to keep gunpowder dry, withstand explosions and avoid the possibility of making sparks. Come and see the inside of this building for yourself today! Open 12pm – 4pm.
Bankhill Ice House
This is perhaps the most well known of Berwick’s ice houses and it is certainly the most obvious. The building was constructed in 18th century and used to store fish before its transportation to London. Ice blocks were used to keep the vast room cool and they were layered with sawdust to prevent them all freezing together. Buildings like these were used until the 1930s. During WWII it was also used as an air raid shelter. Open today 12pm – 4pm.
The Main Guard
This building has been open throughout the week but if you haven’t yet had a chance to go then I really would recommend. The Main Guard was originally situated on Marygate but during the 19th century it was carefully dismantled and moved to Palace Green where it still stands. There are currently two exhibitions displayed for visitors and they can also see the ‘black hole’ where drunks and vagrants woulc be locked up. Open today 1pm – 5pm.
Sandstell Fishing Shiel
Sandstell Fishing Shiel in Spittal is a wonderfully preserved example of fishing accommodation on the River Tweed. Traditionally the word ‘shiel’ referred to seasonal accommodation used by salmon fisherman in North Northumberland during the salmon fishing season from 1st February to 30th November. Sandstell Shiel dates back to the 1730s and shows what life would have been like for fishermen in days gone by. Open 1pm – 4pm.
While you are visiting Sandstell Shiel I also recommend you take a look around the rest of the village and enjoy our Secret Spittal self-guided walk. Find out about Spittal of the past and present by looking for posters in windows, on gates and on lamp posts with historical information on them. This walk is available throughout the day but there will be a manned information point between 2pm and 3pm at 17 Main Street. Have a chat to volunteers and maybe pick up an Edible Spittal leaflet.
St Andrews Wallace Green Church
One of only 8 Church of Scotland churches in England this 162 year-old building is very striking from both outside and in. Boasting beautiful stained glass windows and a light airy interior this is a must see for all who appreciate a high ceiling. The building also has memorial tablets commemorating those who dies in both World Wars. Join Linda Bankier at 3pm today as she gives a talk in the church about these memorials and details the research carried out on their subjects in 2018. Open 2pm – 4pm.
Do not miss the amazing opportunity to see inside Berwick’s Elizabethan defences. Enter a tunnel in Coxon’s lane, go through the walls and emerge into Cumberland Bastion. These walls were built under the threat of invasion from Scotland and Berwick was the first northern European town to be defended by this system of ramparts and bastions (an advanced defence technology of its time). Open 2pm – 4pm.
The New Tower
The New Tower is quite literally a hidden gem of Berwick’s historical past because good luck in finding it! I’m joking it isn’t quite as hard to find as Narnia but it does come close. Luckily we have been putting up lost of signs around town to help you find where everything is. The New Tower is best described as down the alley to the left of the Main Guard (and if you don’t know where that is then you really are going to get lost). Look for some volunteer is high viz vests and a hole in the wall and you’ll know you are in the right place. If you are brave enough to go through the tunnel in the walls (now this really is sounding like Narnia!) then you will be treated to a sight seen by very few people over the last few centuries. Open 2pm – 4pm.
Another (and thankfully far more visible) tower on the walls that will be open this weekend is Coxon’s Tower, at the other end of Wellington Terrace to the New Tower. There is an upstairs to the tower that can be accessed everyday by the public and is a good viewing point to take in Spittal, Tweedmouth and the sea. However there is also a lower level that is rarely open. Enter this underground chamber to see Berwick’s medieval defences up close and learn about the tower that has guarded the river estuary for over 600 years. Open 2pm – 4pm.
Bridge Street Revealed
Last but by no means least is our final in person activity available today – Bridge Street Revealed. Similar to Secret Spittal, walk along the vibrant Bridge Street and learn about the history of various shops and buildings along the way. Look out for posters in shop windows and you’ll know you are on the right track. Open all day.
This weekend we have a lot of guided walks available throughout the town.Join Jim Herbert for the first of these to discover a forgotten Jacobean palace and investigate whether the railway really destroyed Berwick Castle. 10am and 2pm. Book via here eventbrite.
From Ditch to Bastion
Jim is also leading a second guided walk tomorrow around Berwick’s medieval defences. Join him to discover parts of the town that saw action in the Anglo-Scottish wars and understand advances in defensive technology. 12pm and 4pm. Book via eventbrite.
Berwick Between the Wars
Dr Elizabeth Wilson is a new addition to the Berwick Heritage Open Days family and she is taking a tour of the town that focuses on its more recent history. Based on Elizabeth’s research for the editing and publishing of her father’s memoirs she will take you on a tour of his Berwick, mentioning stories and the social conditions of the time. 2pm. Book via eventbrite
Building Berwick’s Town Hall
in addition to his walks Jim is also giving a talk this evening at 7pm about the building of Berwick’s iconic town hall. The building has dominated Marygate for over 250 years but there were buildings on this site long before that. Jim will explore the history of tollbooths and investigate the current building through archive material and physical evidence. Book via eventbrite. Booking closes 5pm.
Berwick Through Time
On our website we have loads and loads and loads of online content for you to explore so here is an attempt to break it down into understandable chunks. Every day we are adding a new feature to our Berwick Through Time gallery. Berwick is home to a host of fascinating buildings and landmarks so every day we are exploring the history of different ones through blog posts or short videos. Take a look at our website to see what buildings we have investigated this week and if you like them then the 2020 version of Berwick Through Time is also available from last year. Click here to visit Berwick Through Time.
Test your local knowledge with our two quizzes. Secret Berwick challenges your powers of observation by asking you to identify buildings, landmarks and inscriptions. It is a chance to test how much you really know about Berwick! Let us know what you thought of the quiz or tell us your score via social media @hodsberwick. The 2020 version of Secret Berwick is also available if you just can’t get enough. Click here to try the Secret Berwick Quiz
We also have a second quiz that tests your knowledge in a different way. Berwick Then and Now asks you to match up old pictures of Berwick with their modern equivalents and you might be surprised how much has changed (or how much has stayed the same!). Click here to try Berwick Then and Now.
If you are unable to get out of the house to see our events in person, if you live to far away or if you just want to enjoy the peace and quiet of your weekend without having to talk to anyone then we have the perfect thing for you. Our collection of online videos makes you feel as if you are in the room and experiencing things first hand. Click here to visit videos page of our website. We have a lot to choose from so there is something for everyone. Here is a list of what you can enjoy:
Bell Ringing in the Town Hall
From Ditch to Bastion
Greenses Arabs and Fish Tales
Berwick Holy Trinity
The South Prospect of Berwick-upon-Tweed
Tweedmouth Church – 1350 Years of History
Wilmott’s Air Fortress
This article took wayyyyyyyy too long to write so please remind me not to take up journalism in the future. You are welcome for the many hours of work I put into this 🙂