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Want to walk on the roof of the Willis building in Ipswich? Don't miss the chance

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:01 12 September 2019

The legendary Willis Towers Watson building in Ipswich. Here's its roof garden, with great views over town  Picture: PAUL GEATER

The legendary Willis Towers Watson building in Ipswich. Here's its roof garden, with great views over town Picture: PAUL GEATER

Archant

It's one of the buildings we can't usually explore. But we CAN see behind the scenes during the Heritage Open Days festival. Details here

The Fisher Theatre in Bungay - the only one left of 13 theatres built by theatrical entrepreneur David Fisher, and the fourth-oldest theatre in the UK  Picture: Nick ButcherThe Fisher Theatre in Bungay - the only one left of 13 theatres built by theatrical entrepreneur David Fisher, and the fourth-oldest theatre in the UK Picture: Nick Butcher

One of the best things about Heritage Open Days is the rare chance to get up high. Willis Towers Watson, in Friars Street, Ipswich, is just one place where we can reach for the stars.

The black-glass building most of us still call Willis Faber is a National Heritage Days regular. Refreshments will be available in its roof-top restaurant, as will spectacular views across town. Stroll, too, on the roof-top lawn.

Inside and out, the creation of Lord (Norman) Foster is pretty quirky. It still looks as if it belongs more in the future than the present, and it's incredible to think it opened back in 1975.

Guided tours of the building run each day.

Suffolk's energy-from-waste facility, in Great Blakenham  Picture: ROSS BENTLEYSuffolk's energy-from-waste facility, in Great Blakenham Picture: ROSS BENTLEY

Saturday, September 14: 10am to 3pm

Sunday, September 15: 11am to 4pm

No booking required

A view from Birketts' home at Providence House, Princes Street, Ipswich   Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNA view from Birketts' home at Providence House, Princes Street, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

What are Heritage Open Days, then?

Heritage Open Days allow us to visit (without charge) many buildings and other places normally out of bounds.

Here are some Suffolk treasures that catch my eye. There are plenty more. Find the full national list, and all the information, HERE.

Do check the listings online, as there are often vital details about aspects such as booking (closure dates, say), age limits, absence of loos, ease of access, and so on.

The view from the tower of All Saints Church in Sudbury eight years ago. It's 110 steps to the top...  Picture: Tudor Morgan-OwenThe view from the tower of All Saints Church in Sudbury eight years ago. It's 110 steps to the top... Picture: Tudor Morgan-Owen

Fisher Theatre, Broad Street, Bungay

David Fisher founded his touring Company of Comedians in Norfolk and Suffolk in the early 18th century. Not only that, he built 13 theatres. There's only one left: take a bow, The Fisher Theatre in Bungay (also the fourth-oldest theatre in the UK).

Ivan Bunn gives an illustrated talk about the extraordinary life of the theatrical entrepreneur.

When 3-5 Silent Street, Ipswich, was the home of Claude Cox Old & Rare Books  Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVEWhen 3-5 Silent Street, Ipswich, was the home of Claude Cox Old & Rare Books Picture: ARCHANT ARCHIVE

Bookending the talk (half an hour before and after) are chances to see archaeological finds unearthed during the theatre's renovation and the atmospheric cellar space - complete with "Georgian audience" in the original pit.

Sunday, September 22

Talk: 6.30pm to 7.30pm

Booking isn't essential but numbers are limited. Best to secure a place HERE.

Chapel House, Halesworth: Three-into-one perfection  Picture: Bill JacksonChapel House, Halesworth: Three-into-one perfection Picture: Bill Jackson

'Dissent, Riot and Rebellion'

Not a building but guided walks that start from the war memorial on Angel Hill in Bury St Edmunds. A journey back to the days of civil unrest and rioting in the streets.

Folk can hear stories from the 1100s, when the abbey ruled most aspects of life. The seven centuries that followed were turbulent - and saw the birth of the phrase "Bury stirs". Everything happened on the streets we can walk today, and involving the buildings we pass.

A montage of familiar scenes  Picture: Bury St Edmunds Postcard ClubA montage of familiar scenes Picture: Bury St Edmunds Postcard Club

Saturday, September 14 and Sunday, September 22

Time: 10.30am both days

Booking essential: contact The Apex on 01284 758000 or www.whatsonwestsuffolk.co.uk

Tom Castleton and Fred Hoffman in 2010, wearing some of the 1960s suits worn by Dockside Dandies - fishermen in Lowestoft. 
They're outside the former Lawrence Green tailoring shop where the suits were made  

Picture: James BassTom Castleton and Fred Hoffman in 2010, wearing some of the 1960s suits worn by Dockside Dandies - fishermen in Lowestoft. They're outside the former Lawrence Green tailoring shop where the suits were made Picture: James Bass

Suffolk energy-from-waste facility, Lodge Lane, Great Blakenham

If you wonder what happens to your non-recyclable waste after you've put it in the bin, now's your chance to find out.

The plant is run by SUEZ recycling and recovery UK and Suffolk County Council. It processes 269,000 tonnes of waste a year; burning it generates enough electricity to power 39,000 homes, while the ash left over is used by the construction industry.

Folk can get a guided tour and visit the control room and visitors' centre, with its interactive displays.

A Christmas swim at Broomhill pool, Ipswich, in December, 1972  Picture: ARCHANTA Christmas swim at Broomhill pool, Ipswich, in December, 1972 Picture: ARCHANT

Saturday, September 14

Times: 10am to 2pm. (Tours 10.15am to 11am; 11.15am to 12noon; 12.15pm to 1pm; 1.15pm to 2pm)

Tours must be booked: 01473 839149 or suffolkefw.uk@suez.com

Visitors' centre and information room available to all

Broomhill Library in 2010, when it was still called Westbourne Library
 and before it was painted white  Picture: Lucy TaylorBroomhill Library in 2010, when it was still called Westbourne Library and before it was painted white Picture: Lucy Taylor

Providence House, Birketts LLP, 141-145 Princes Street, Ipswich

Thirty-minute or so tours of law practice Birketts' new offices (opened last year) include a visit to the roof garden. This has views across to Ipswich Town's football ground on one side (over the Archant building, too) and towards the waterfront buildings in the opposite direction.

A visit also brings the opportunity to hear about the history of the firm.

Benjamin Birkett set up his law practice in Providence Street, Ipswich, in 1863. It spent 150 years in a range of buildings in Museum Street before moving to its 55,000 sq ft modern flagship home.

Saturday, September 14

Times: 11am to 4pm

No booking required

All Saints Church and Tower, Church Street, Sudbury

Another chance to go up, up, up! - but you must be fit and agile to climb the 110 steps to the top of the tower and enjoy its stunning views.

All Saints is woven into the history of artist Thomas Gainsborough. He and his family worshipped at the 15th Century church (and the family resting-place is in the graveyard too).

All Saints is where the marriage of major landowner Robert and Frances Andrews took place in the 18th Century - the couple made famous by the Sudbury artist's painting entitled (unsurprisingly) Mr and Mrs Andrews.

The church tower will be open at various times during the day, promising glorious views of the River Stour, Sudbury and the countryside beyond.

Saturday, September 21

Times: Church 10am to 4pm; tower 12noon to 3pm

No booking required

You may also want to watch:

3-5 Silent Street, Ipswich

For 33 years, until early 2015, the Claude Cox Old & Rare Books business was based in Ipswich. This late-medieval timber-framed building - a Grade II* listed treasure that dates from the 15th Century - was its home before it decamped to Saxmundham.

Number 3-5 is part of a larger timber-framed building constructed in two stages and lauded as one of the most complete and important early Tudor inns in Britain.

There are finely-moulded joists, carved brackets and other historic features. Evidence of refurbishment in the Georgian age can also be seen, in the first-floor parlour, such as traces of paint and wallpaper.

Saturday, September 14

Times: 10am to 5pm

No booking required

Chapel House, Loam Pit Lane, Halesworth

This extensively-refurbished home incorporates three buildings whose uses included Baptist chapel, egg-packing station and commercial garage.

The largest part is the former 274-seat chapel built 200 years ago. Builder Lionel Sharman converted it into a home for himself and wife Maud. In the middle building he installed a sun roof.

The third building, the derelict garage, has been given new life by the current owners. They've put in an upper floor that connects with the rest of their home via the sun roof.

Saturday, September 21

Times: 10am and 2.30pm

Booking required, via The Cut box office on 0300 3033211, boxoffice@newcut.org or www.newcut.org

Booking opens 11am on September 10

Bury St Edmunds Postcard Club

The club will be in the Undercroft of Moyses Hall Museum, on the Cornhill, offering the chance to look at a collection of old and modern postcards.

Friday, September 20 and Saturday, September 21

Times: 10am to 5pm, both days

No booking required

Dockside Dandies, Old Town Hall, High Street, Lowestoft

A unique display of Lowestoft fashion history.

In the early 1960s, young men working on the fishing trawlers developed their own "look" - one that caught the eye back in port. As the publicity material puts it: "Out at sea they wore rough work denim, but back on land they were peacocks strutting about in bespoke tailoring."

London-based artist Peter Wylie is actually a Lowestoft boy, born in the Beach Village. His family worked on the fishing boats. He noted the quirky folk art of the Dockside Dandies' look and has worked to bring that style - and times - back under the spotlight.

Backed by Arts Council England, Peter's Dockside Dandies Project was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and later featured on BBC TV.

The exhibition will show us what it was to be a Dandy: the cheeky young men who returned to Lowestoft with a wink and a smile even after 12 gruelling days at sea.

Saturday, September 14

Sunday, September 15

Times: 10am to 4pm both days

No booking required

Broomhill Pool, Sherrington Road, Ipswich, and neighbouring Broomhill Library

A double-hit here. First, there's the pool. One of Britain's 17 listed lidos, it's lain forlorn since 2002 but by 2021 is due to be restored to glory and open again, thanks in large part to cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund and the borough council.

There are some fascinating stats. The eight-lane pool originally cost £17,000 and measures 55 yards by 20. Filling it takes 2.1million litres of water.

The depth ranges from three and a half feet to seven and a half, while the diving pit is 15 feet deep - which earns it the title of the joint-deepest outdoor pool in the country.

Broomhill is home to the last-known Wicksteed diving stage, which has boards at metre intervals from two to five metres. There is also a separate one-metre springboard.

There is a children's pool and a grandstand for 700 spectators. The changing cubicles could accommodate 70 women and 108 men.

There was floodlighting, including underwater lighting, and the water was heated to 21C - or it was, until the boilers were nabbed in 1941 to help with the war effort!

Saturday, September 14 and Sunday 15th

Times: 10am to 4pm both days

No booking required

Broomhill Library

The pool's neighbour was originally called Westbourne Library but rechristened Broomhill a couple of years ago.

The building started life as a bomb shelter and decontamination unit during the Second World War. It became a library in 1948 and is now Grade II listed.

To reflect its original DNA, there will be a display of wartime objects (such as gas masks and shrapnel found in north-west Ipswich) and music from the 1940s will be playing.

Friday, September 13: 9.30am to 6.30pm

Saturday, September 14: 10am to 5pm

Sunday, September 15: 11am to 4pm

Thursday, September 19: 9.30am to 5pm

Friday, September 20: 9.30am to 6.30pm

Saturday, September 21: 10am to 5pm

Sunday, September 22: 11am to 4pm

No booking required

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