What to See at Open House Festival 2022
Open House Festival 2022 runs until 21 September this year so there’s even more time to visit London’s unusual and inspiring buildings (some of which are only open to the public for Open House).
As ever, there’s so much to choose from and sift through so I’ve done the hard work for you! Everything listed below is available to “drop-in”, that being said it’s still recommended to register on the Open House Festival website so you can show your plan to attend these venues and give them idea of the numbers to expect. Also, given the recent passing of HM Queen some venues have now cancelled their Open House plans so please do double check.
I’ve included a mixed bag of my 30 top venues, some of which are open at other times of the year but, due to limited opening hours or costs, they’re trickier to visit.
Central London (City & Westminster)
New West End Synagogue, Bayswater (W2)
A highlight from my visits from last year’s Open House London, this stunning synagogue was built in 1879 and there are very helpful volunteers on hand to explain the significance of artworks and the wonderful interior details of the building.
Available for drop-in Sunday 11 September, register your intention to attend here.
Drapers’ Hall, City of London (EC2N)
One of the grandest Livery halls in the City, The Drapers’ have been on this site since the 16th century but the interiors here are largely Victorian. That doesn’t make them any less impressive though, the Drapers’ Hall has been a firm favourite of Open House London for years!
Available for drop-in Saturday 17 September, register your intention to attend here.
Cooper’s Hall, City of London (EC2)
The hall dates from the late 17th century, set within a very cute townhouse tucked away in Devonshire Square. The Cooper’s rank 36th within the City’s 110 livery companies and the hall contains many significant artefacts relating to their 700+ years of history.
Available for drop-in Saturday 10 September, register your intent to visit here.
Benjamin Franklin House, Charing Cross (WC2N)
No. 36 Craven Street (originally No.7) was built in c.1730. Its most famous resident; Benjamin Franklin, planned to rent a room here for 6 months in the 1760s but ended up staying on-and-off for 16 years! As there are no detailed records of what the furnishings looked like, the house is kept intentionally bare but there’s interesting snippets about Franklin’s life in London dotted around. The most intriguing story is the Anatomy School run by Franklin and his landlady’s son-in-law here, along with the 1,200 bones found during structural repairs in the basement in 1998…
Available for drop-in Monday 19 and Wednesday 21 September, register your intent to attend here.
Fitzrovia Chapel (W1T)
One of the most jaw-droppingly beautiful buildings in London, Fitzrovia Chapel is usually only open on Wednesdays so this is a great opportunity to see it on the weekends. Originally the private Victorian chapel of Middlesex Hospital, it’s the only piece of the building to survive its demolition in late 1920s and now sits rather stranded within a complex of luxury flats.
Stationer’s Hall, City of London (EC4M)
Tucked down a side street by St Paul’s Cathedral, Stationer’s Hall is a surviving (although much altered) 17th Century livery hall that’s recently been refurbished. During the Great Fire of London in 1666 the quick-think George Tokefield rescued the archives of the Company to his Clerkenwell home so as well as the building there’s an exhibition of fine books available to see. Below is a picture of their rather lovely private garden that I was able to sneak a peek at recently!
St Joseph’s Church, City of London (EC1Y)
Housed within a 1901 school building, this tucked away Catholic church has some surviving 1820s stained glass windows from St Mary Moorfields (the only Catholic Church in the City). Next door is also an attractive but tiny little garden in memory of Cardinal Basil Hume.
Available for drop in on Friday 9, Sunday 11, Wednesday 14, Friday 16, Sunday 18 and Wednesday 21 September. Register your intent to visit here.
Founder’s Hall, City of London (EC1A)
Although the Livery Hall was only built in the 1980s, this is the fifth hall owned by the Founder’s Company who have a history going back to the 14th century. The company was involved in the manufacture of brass and other metal products like candlesticks, pots and bells but they found a lucrative trade in the monopoly of official weights, having the powers to check the weights of other merchants and insure no customers was being swindled.
Available for drop in on Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September. Register your intent to visit here.
Two Temple Place, Temple (WC2R)
An Open House favourite each year, Two Temple Place is open half the year for exhibitions but this is a great opportunity to visit without any displays and appreciate the extraordinary Victoria interiors. Built as a private mansion for William Waldorf Astor in the 1890s, he wasn’t a man to recoil at a budget and this is one of the most lavish buildings in London. Don’t miss the wonderfully eclectic cherubs outside!
Available for drop-in Sunday 11 and Sunday 18 September, register your intent to visit here.
Painter-Stainers’ Hall, City of London (EC4V)
Although they’ve been on this site since 1532, the Painters’ Hall has been through a fair bit of destruction. From fires to bomb damage the majority of the building dates from the 1960s rebuild after the Second World War but the Painters Company is the fifth oldest of all the Worshipful Livery Companies, recorded as far back as 1283!
Available for drop-in Saturday 10 September, register your intent to visit here.
London Scottish House, Victoria (SW1P)
Home of the London Scottish Regiment, founded in 1859. The current building was completed in 1988 but incorporates design elements and fabric from the the former drill hall built in 1882.
Available for drop-in Friday 9, Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September. Register your intent to visit here.
KCL Museum of Life Sciences (SE1)
Now part of the Guy’s Hospital Campus of Kings College London, the museum is housed in the 1902 Will’s Library. Although the museum was only created in 2007 it contains specimens dating back to the early 1800s including rare examples of botanical, pharmaceutical or zoological specimens used for research and teaching.
Available for drop-in Saturday 10 September. register your intent to attend here.
Africa House (SE1)
Showcasing the best of contemporary African culture and heritage, Africa House moved from its former headquarters in Covent Garden in 2016, occupying and transforming a former 1960s office block.
Available for drop-in Thursday 15 and Saturday 17 September. Register your intent to visit here.
Diamond Way Buddhist Centre, Lambeth (SE11)
Set within a former Edwardian School for impoverished children, Diamond Way Buddhism UK have been here since 2013.
Available for drop-in Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September. Register your intent to visit here.
Woolwich Town Hall (SE18)
Town hall for the metropolitan borough of Woolwich until 1965 and then used as the town hall for Greenwich since, the building is straight out of a fairytale, designed by J.E.Johnson and Sons in the early 1900s.
Available for drop-in Thursday 8, Friday 9, Monday 12, Tuesday 13, Wednesday 14, Thursday 15, Friday 16, Monday 19, Tuesday 20 and Wednesday 21 September. Register your intent to visit here.
Walworth Garden (SE17)
Designed by the Matrix Feminist Design Co-Operative, and built by women. It’s now used as a thriving community hub and garden.
Available for drop-in everyday during the Festival (8-21 September). Register your intent to visit here.
Charlton House (SE7)
The only surviving Jacobean mansion in the UK, Charlton House is a Greenwich gem with fabulous interiors and dates back to 1607.
Available for drop-in Sunday 11 September. Register your intent to visit here.
Asylum Chapel, Peckham (SE15)
The Chapel is the centrepiece of the largest complex of almshouses in London. It was built between 1827-1833 and paid for by the Licensed Victuallers’ Benevolent Institution Asylum. Although it stands on Asylum Road and is known now as the ‘Asylum’ it had nothing to do with mental health. Rather, it was established as a retirement home for former pub landlords. Today it’s used as an atmospheric filming, events and wedding venue.
St Pancras Water Tower (N1C)
Built in 1872 to supply to steam network of St Pancras Station, this was designed by the office of George Gilbert Scott who completed the iconic nearby (former) Midland Hotel. But the amazing thing about this is that in 2001 – thanks to the Channel Tunnel rail link – the whole structure was moved around 700 metres to its current location!
The Tin Tabernacle, Kilburn (NW6)
This curious corrugated iron chapel was built in 1863 and though no-longer a church it’s used for a variety of community and other events.
St Mary’s Tower, Hornsey (N8)
The oldest building in Hornsey with parts dating to the late Middle Ages, you’ll be able to visit the crypt, main roof and ringing chamber.
Grand Junction at St Mary Magdalene Church, Paddington (W2)
George Edmund Street might be best known for the Royal Courts of Justice in London but his major workload was all churches and cathedrals. This church was founded in 1865 and is a masterpiece in Victorian Gothic, especially the atmospheric crypt chapel (pictured) which was inspired by a 15th Century Chantry Chapel by Ninian Comper.
Available for drop-in Monday 19 and Wednesday 21 September, register your interest in attending here.
Royal Hospital, Chelsea (SW3)
Designed by Christopher Wren in the late 17th Century and set within 66 acres of grounds, the hospital was established as an almshouse for army veterans and is still home to the famous red-coated Chelsea Pensioners today.
Available for drop-in Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 September, register your interest in attending here.
Whitehall Historic House, Cheam (SM3)
This was a new recent discovery for me so I’m thrilled to see it taking part this year! Incredibly this was built as a house around 1500 and now houses a brilliant local history museum. Discover the story of the past residents (it was lived in until the early 1900s) and the historic village of Cheam. Read my recent blog here.
Available for drop-in Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 September, register your interest in attending here.
Merton Priory, Merton Abbey Mills (SW19)
This is what’s great about London. Under the A24 by Colliers Wood are the surviving ruins of one of the most Magnificent Priories in the country. Merton Priory was founded in 1114 but the whole area has a fascinating history linked with Merton Abbey Mills which made fabric for Liberty’s up until the 1970s. Read more from my visit here.
Available for drop-in Sunday 11 September, register your interest in attending here.
St Augustine’s Tower, Hackney (E8)
Climb Hackney’s oldest building! Constructed in the late 13th century and refurbished in the 15th century, the views from the top are worth the steps! Read more about my visit back in 2018 here.
13 Princelet Street, Spitalfields (E1)
If you’ve ever wanter to nose around the gorgeous early 1700s houses in Spitalfields, now is your chance! No.13 is owned by the Landmark Trust and has been sensitively refurbished with antique furniture. See some pictures from my visit back in 2016 here.
Available for drop-in Saturday 10 September. Register your intent to visit here.
East Ham Old Town Hall (E6)
A magnificent redbrick, Grade II* listed town hall, today it’s used for various events but still does serve as the admin HQ for the London Borough of Newham since it absorbed East Ham in 1965.
Thames River Police, Wapping (E1W)
Housed in an old carpenter’s warehouse from 1910, the museum tells the story of the Thames Police. Today they’re the Marine Policing Unit of the Met, but the history of keeping law and order on the Thames goes back to 1798, making them one of it not the oldest police force in London.
London Buddhist Centre, Bethnal Green (E2)
Completed in 1888, this former derelict Victorian fire station became the London Buddhist Centre in 1978.
You made it to the end, well done! I hope that’s given you some food for thought while planning your Open House Festival from 8 – 21 September and let me know what you’re going to visit!
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