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Heritage Open Days

Every September thousands of volunteers across England organise events to celebrate our fantastic history and culture. It's your chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences – all of which are FREE to explore.

In 2024 Heritage Open Days will be celebrating how people and ideas have moved around and come together throughout history.  The transport routes, communication networks, trade unions and social clubs.  The travellers who have spread ideas and the hosts who welcome them.


Harleston will join the celebrations with a focus on our connection to the Mayflower Pilgrims of 400 years ago who sailed to the New World with their religious beliefs and ideas for a new life.  But there will be other themed events and activities during the Open Days from 6 – 15 September.  This is a Team Harleston collective with contributions from many of our local groups and organisation.

Mayflower Connections

In 1620 the Mayflower ship sailed to America taking a group of passengers who would become known as the Pilgrims.  These are revered as the founding fathers of America as we know it today.

The Fuller family from Harleston were four of the 102 passengers on the ship.  Descendants of the Mayflower Pilgrims are estimated to be around 35 million people today, and there is a dedicated Fullers Society of members which remember their Harleston heritage.

Voices in the Church
St Marys Church, Church Close, Redenhall, UK

Fri 6 & Sun 8 - Sun 15: 10am - 4pm, Sat 7: 10am - 2pm

AUDIO TRAIL - Listen to local people as they take a journey through the history of St Marys Church, and the association with a family who travelled on the Mayflower.

Friends of St Marys

Travellers Tales
Harleston IP20 9BP, UK

Wed 11: 10am

GUIDED WALK - A walk and talk highlighting sites relevant to transport, travel and fairs in Harleston through the years.

Historical Society

Heritage Festival Quiz
Swan Hotel, The Thoroughfare, Harleston, UK

Sun 7: 7pm

EVENT - As part of Harleston Heritage Festival events, Harleston & District Round Table along with Harleston 41 Club will host a light hearted quiz with all profits being donated to the Harleston and District Historical Society.

Round Table with 41 Club

Now and Then
Market Place, Harleston, UK

Fri 6 - Sun 15

TRAIL - Follow a trail of buildings dating back to 1600s with photos of now and then during their evolution.

Historical Society

Animals in the Church
St Marys Church, Church Close, Redenhall, UK

Fri 6 & Sun 8 - Sun 15: 10am - 4pm, Sat 7: 10am - 2pm

CHILDRENS TRAIL - Walk around the church in search of animals. Some are in plain sight, some more hidden. From eagles to lions, from tortoise to lamb. Follow a mini safari trail and see how many you can find.

Historical Society

Pilgrims Footsteps
Swan Hotel, The Thoroughfare, Harleston, UK

Sat 7 & 14 and Sun 8 & 15: 10am, 12am, 2pm

GUIDED WALK - Take a guided walk of 1600 Harleston. Discover the hidden Harleston which would have been familiar to the Fuller family who sailed to America onboard the Mayflower some 400 years ago.

Historical Society

Children's Artwork
St. John's Church, Broad Street, Harleston IP20 9AZ, UK

Fri 6 - Sun 15: 10am - 4pm

Mayflower based artwork created by children from the local school will be on display throughout the town. The school choir will perform a specially arranged song and children will read specially written poetry.

Harleston Sancroft Academy

Mayflower Food Festival
Market Place, Harleston, UK

Sat 14 Sep

OPEN DOORS - A Food and Dink festival focusing on the towns association with the Mayflower Pilgrims. Taste specially create themed produce, admire the shop window displays and listen to costumed actors portray life in the 1600s.

Harlestons Future

Step Inside the Old House
1 Old Market Place, Harleston IP20 9BE, UK

Thu 12 Sep: 10am, 11:30am, 1:30pm, 3pm, 4:30pm

OPEN DOORS - Guided tour of domestic and commercial rooms from an 18th Century drapery premises with a 16th Century core. The owners are also allowing access to the gardens to see the exterior of outhouses including the early 19th Century Fire Engine Store.

Historical Society

St Marys and the Mayflower
St Marys Church, Church Close, Redenhall, UK

Sat 7: 2pm

TALK - Hear about St Mary’s Church, Redenhall and its connection to the Fuller family who sailed to America on the Mayflower, followed by organ recital.

Historical Society

Harleston of the Pilgrims
Swan Hotel, The Thoroughfare, Harleston, UK

Fri 6 - Sun 15

EXHIBITION - Items from the archives to look back at the life and times of the Fuller family in 1600 Harleston. Watch buildings transform to their former selves of 400 years ago.

Heritage Group

Connecting with the Past
Harleston Library, Swan Lane, Harleston IP20 9AW, UK

Fri 6 & 13 - 11:30am - 6pm, Sat 7 & 14: 11:30am - 3pm, Mon 9: 11:30am - 6pm, Wed 11: 10am - 6pm

EVENT - Craft activities and displays focusing on history of The Mayflower, in co-operation with the American Library.

Norfolk County Council

More Travellers

Harleston has other connections with people moving around and coming together.  Harleston provided hospitals for injured soldiers of many nations during Word War 1, and welcomed many people from American forces during World War 2 in what is termed the Friendly Invasion.


Much of the East Anglian landscape was fashioned by people from Holland as they created a navigable river system.  Harleston was on the coach route from Great Yarmouth to London and had a thriving rail network welcoming many people to our town.

Learn More
Snow Geese Migrating

The Railway Remembered

Swan Hotel, The Thoroughfare, Harleston, UK

Sat 7, Sun 8, Sat 14 & Sun 15: 10am - 4pm

EXHIBITION - A 00 gauge model railway illustrating Harleston Station as it might have been in the early 20th century with photographic exhibition and contemporary footage from the last days of the train service in the 1950s.

Harleston Model Railway Group

Private Resistance

Swan Hotel, The Thoroughfare, Harleston, UK

Sat 14: 7:30pm

EXHIBITION - A rehearsed reading of Private Resistance. An intriguing look at an alternative history and Churchill’s secret guerilla army, ready to go underground and fight behind the lines in the event of Nazi invasion.

Harlestons Future

Last Orders

Swan Hotel, The Thoroughfare, Harleston, UK

Fri 6 - Sun 15: Pub opening hours

EXHIBITION - A temporary exhibition featuring historic and modern photographs of some of the largely now bygone pubs of Harleston as well as some relevant artefacts.

Historical Society


See our events on the national Heritage Open Days 2024 website.

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