The annual national Heritage Open Days programme includes a chance to see where the famous Binns department store first started out, visit a Sikh temple and join a beer tasting in Sunderland.

People can also take a trip down memory lane with vintage cars, listen to a pianist playing hits from down the decades and enjoy food from bygone years at Easington Lane Community Action Point (ELCAPS) Heritage Event, or travel back through more than 1000 years of history at Holy Trinity Church in Washington.

This year for the first time in its history, Heritage Open Days – England’s largest free festival of culture and history – will take place over the two consecutive weekends of 6-9 and 13-16 September.

Sunderland City Council Cabinet Member for Communities and Culture, Councillor John Kelly said: “Heritage Open Days offer a fantastic once-a-year opportunity to enjoy a behind the scenes glimpse of some of our hidden historical and architectural gems.

“This year we’ve got a mix of old favourites like the Queen Street Masonic Hall in the East End with new additions like 170 High Street West where Binns first started out, which is now being converted into a new home for Pop Recs independent record shop.

“There’s also the opportunity to visit the Sikh Temple in Ashbrooke, enjoy a hard hat tour of Hylton Castle and visit the Darwin Brewery in Southwick.”

Other events of interest include:

Washington F Pit Museum – step back in time to explore the region’s coal-mining heritage

Houghton Heritage Walk – a guided walk led by local historian Paul Lanagan exploring Houghton’s many places of interest

Sunderland Maritime Heritage Centre – come and see traditional building skills and techniques in a busy and active boatyard

St Peters Church, Monkwearmouth – visitors can explore over 1300 years of history in the Monastery founded by Benedict Biscop in 674AD

Hylton Castle – ‘hard hat tours’ to see the construction work restoring the 14th Castle gatehouse and grounds to the centre of community life

Councillor Kelly added: “These are just some of the 35 tours, events and activities bringing local history and culture to life in Sunderland.

“There really is something for everyone, and I’d urge everyone to have a look at the website and see what’s on offer.”

In Tyne & Wear, Heritage Open Days is co-ordinated by the Councils of Gateshead, Newcastle, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Sunderland, in association with Tyne & Wear Building Preservation Trust, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, NE1, RIBA North East, Sunderland Heritage Forum and the Newcastle upon Tyne Association of City Guides.

This is the sixth year the event has been sponsored by the Port of Tyne.

Chief Executive Officer for the Port of Tyne, Andrew Moffat,said: “The Port of Tyne is pleased to be able to support Heritage Open Days once again this year and help visitors enjoy places that are not normally open to the public.

“Over eight days 199 venues will be open for free, offering unique experiences to go behind the scenes or try something new.

“The Tyne and Wear programme is one of the country’s best with something for everyone of all ages and interests.

“This is a great opportunity to be inspired to get to know more about the heritage of Tyne and Wear and enjoy some great experiences  with all the family.”

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