Celebrate Our History and Heritage with FREE Open Doors events

Rhondda Cynon Taf Council is once again throwing open the doors of its historical houses, heritage-rich buildings and fascinating facilities to celebrate the Open Doors festival.

Open Doors is Wales’ biggest celebration of architecture and heritage – and we have plenty to enjoy right here in Rhondda Cynon Taf!

Download the information booklet

Take a guided walk through the history on your doorstep, learn more about famous residents and explore the industrial and cultural heritage for which we are celebrated the world over.

Enjoy exclusive access to buildings and attractions that are usually closed to the public and take advantage of FREE mining experiences, accompanied by an expert guide who once toiled underground in the pits, at the celebrated Rhondda Heritage Park every Saturday in September.

Among the attractions showcased are the Nantgarw China Works, Lido Ponty, Hetty Winding House, tours of town centres and churches and an insight into our intriguing museum collections. Find out more in the detailed itineraries below or Download a copy of the Open Doors 2015 Information Leaflet.

Please be aware there may be booking conditions, time limits and group number limits on certain events so please read the detailed information in the leaflet on the event of your choice.

Cllr Joy Rosser, Rhondda Cynon Taf Council’s Cabinet Member for Safer Communities, Libraries and Heritage said: “We are pleased to be involved in Open Doors, which is a Wales wide celebration of history and heritage from CADW.

“There are treasures on every street corner in Rhondda Cynon Taf – buildings, streets, open spaces and industrial remnants – each of which has a fascinating story to tell.

“Open Doors is free and offers people of all ages and interests the chance to enjoy a sneak peek behind the scenes and enjoy exclusive access and insights into our rich and celebrated past.”

Open Doors events in RCT include:

Saturday – Sept 5, 12, 19 and 26: FREE guided underground tours accompanied by an ex-miner at the Rhondda Heritage Park, a Grade II Listed building that was once the Lewis Merthyr Colliery. Extend your stay and enjoy the adventure playground, Level One Cafe and Gallery and a gift shop. Underground tours usually incur a charge, but are FREE on EVERY Saturday in September.

Saturday September 5:  Why not combine your free underground tour with a fascinating presentation on the Hetty Winding House, an essential part of the Lewis Merthyr Colliery which has been restored over the last decade by dedicated volunteers and is set to open as a visitor attraction soon.

Saturday, September 5:  Some will have a close connection to Glyncornel House, as it was once the maternity hospital for the area. Now a children’s outdoor activity centre, the house is usually closed to the public. Enjoy a tour of the former mine manager’s house, which has a 100-year history.

Saturday, September 5: Pontypridd/Llanwonno and Penrhys.  Follow in the footsteps of medieval pilgrims and Weatherman Walking Derek Brockway on this challenging walk from Pontypridd to Penrhys.

Wednesday, September 9:  Miskin near Pontyclun has a long past. Yes it thrived as a result of 19th century ironstone mines, but there is evidence of prehistoric and Roman settlements – and a possible connection to poet Morgannwg.  Enjoy a walk around the area with a local historian.

Friday September 11: Caring for our collections at the Rhondda Heritage Park. Council Collection Manager Heather Perry will talk about how historical artefacts are cared for so they can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Friday September 11, Saturday September  12 and Sunday September 13:  Family Matters at St John’s Church in Porth will be a weekend of celebration of family life, including a family lunch on the Friday, arts and crafts fun with Messy Church and a family-themed worship on the Sunday.

Saturday September 12:  St John Baptist Church in Aberdare is the oldest and largest church in the Valleys and was built in around 1189 as the church was on the pilgrim route to Ireland. Church wardens will detail the history of the church and church records will be on display.

Saturday, September 12:  View church registers and talk to a local historian at St Anne’s Church in Talygarn, a Grade II Listed Victorian church built by GT Clarke in memory of his wife. Find out more about this man and his church.

Saturday, September 12:  Take in one of the oldest railway bridges in the world, an Egyptian obelisk and a sports venue where Tottenham Hotspur once played…. on a walkabout in Treforest!

Saturday, September 12: Enjoy a guided walk around the oldest part of Mountain Ash town, exploring what remains of the 19th century and use maps and census records to find out the history of the streets.

Thursday – Sept 10, 17 and 24: Nantgarw China Works is the oldest-surviving pottery works in the UK and the beautiful items once crafted there by William Billingsley’s staff are said to have adorned the dining tables of Russian royalty. The china is considered of such importance, there are items of it preserved in the National Museum of Wales. The Friends of Nantgarw China Works welcome you to the Grade II listed Georgian building. Why not finish off your visit with a specialty cream tea, served in the cosy surroundings of the china works’ traditional tea room?

Tuesday September 15: The Glamorgan Canal was a vital artery during the industrial history of South Wales. Ynysangharad locks 31 and 32 are the only remaining staircase locks on the canal. The site is currently being regenerated by volunteers who want to raise awareness of the canal and its importance. Make the most of a visit to the area by popping into the Bunch of Grapes, named one of the best pub restaurants in Wales and home of the award-winning Otley Brewery!

Tuesday, September 15: Join a local author and historian for a fascinating insight into Llanwonno and its famous sons – from Rourke’s Drift, the blockbuster film Zulu and Sir Stanley Baker to Dr Who and the fastest man on Earth. Enjoy the surroundings of the 17th Century Brynfynnon Arms for this talk.

Saturday, September 19: Pontypridd Common offers stunning views across the town and beyond and is packed with fascinating sites, including evidence of ice sheets that covered the area 10,000 years ago, a prehistoric burial chamber and a stone circle that has been a gathering point for more than 3,000 years.

Saturday, September 19: From the Mount to the Cwm, a guided, steep walk that climbs up through Darranlas and one to the trackbed of the  TVR Ynysybwl branch and back again.

Saturday. September 19: Enjoy a guided tour of the ancient church of St Illtyd’s in Church Village and peruse church records.

Saturday, September 19: The 180ft spire of St Elvan’s Church towers over the landscape of Aberdare. Event begins with an introduction to the Eden Memorial, which lists 222 soldiers from the town. A young person’s workshop will look at the meaning of the symbols in the church’s stain glass windows and you can make your own personal banner.

Wednesday September 23 and Thursday September 24: Enjoy a unique insight into the incredible regeneration of Lido Ponty. Those behind the staggering transformation will discuss the methods used and how the original features of the Lido were preserved.

Friday, September 25: Believed to be the fastest man on Earth in his day, enjoy a speech on the life of the legendary Guto Nyth Bran, in whose honour the popular New Year’s Eve Nos Galan races are held.

Saturday, September 26: The Hetty Winding  House is soon to open as a visitor attraction in its own right – complete with a working engine which is the oldest one of its kind in the UK! A striking reminder of the industrial heritage of the valleys.

Saturday, September 26: Hen Dy Cwrdd in Trecynon was built in 1751 as a cottage-like meeting place and was the first non-conformist place of worship in the Cynon Valley. Enjoy a lecture on the links between Hen Dy Cwrdd and the Chartist movement.

Thursday, September 30: The National Collections Centre in Nantgarw is part of the National Museum of Wales and stores thousands of fascinating artefacts that are not usually on display. Enjoy a guided tour.

Please download the Open Doors Information booklet for specific information about times, meeting places, special arrangements and requirements for the days and booking information. Please be aware spaces on some events may be limited and advance booking may be needed. Please ensure you read carefully all information regarding walking tours, equipment needed and how strenuous walks are.

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