Venture behind the doors for a journey through our history

Falkirk Steeple is open for Doors Open Days to show people the jail cells on the upper floors
Falkirk Steeple is open for Doors Open Days to show people the jail cells on the upper floors

A palace, two churches, a prison and a monumental burial ground.

That’s just a flavour of what lies in store for those who take the opportunity to see behind Falkirk doors that are usually closed.

Larbert Old Parish Church

Larbert Old Parish Church

The Doors Open Day event runs in Falkirk this weekend – September 16 and 17.

And a range of buildings all over the district, from different time periods, will be on display.

Doors Open Day is Scotland’s largest free architectural event and is co-ordinated nationally by the Scottish Civic Trust.

It is part of the wider European Heritage Days initiative alongside Scottish Archaeology Month and is also supported by Historic Scotland.

In the Falkirk area, landmarks such as the Steeple, Larbert Parish Church and churchyard and historic parts of the town centre are waiting to be explored.

Geoff Bailey, heritage engagement officer, said: “How often do you get the chance to see round a palace prison cell, marvel at impressive stained glass windows and visit the earliest cast iron funerary obelisk anywhere in the world – as visited by Robert Burns!

“Falkirk is full of hidden gems, and Doors Open Day 2017 provides an unmissable opportunity to see them.”

Some of the buildings on this year’s Falkirk programe are being given new leases of life by changing their function throughout the years.

Falkirk Steeple was once an administrative centre, shop and a prison, and later became the town’s information centre and a ticket booking office.

It has now been completely refurbished as part of the Townscape Heritage Initiative and this will be the first opportunity to see the results.

The weekend will be an opportunity to inspect the two prison cells, also known as the ‘lock-ups’.

The church at Larbert has also recently completed remedial building work.

Larbert Parish Church opened in 1821 and was designed by the Glasgow architect, David Hamilton, who also designed the Steeple.

On Saturday morning, there will be an organ recital in the church, while guided tours of the churchyard will take in many fascinating aspects of local and national history throughout the weekend.

Hodge Street in the town is home to the Gothic-style Erskine Community Halls, designed by A & W Black, Architects.

Although the building ceased functioning as a church in 2014, it is now used by the community and offers a great venue for functions.

Doors Open Day runs across Scotland and more than 1000 buildings will be open and free to enter.

Castles, churches, mosques, museums, fire stations, offices, theatres and even a distillery are taking part this year.

John Pelan, director of the Scottish Civic Trust, said: “Every September, tens of thousands of people are given the opportunity to get inside buildings and learn something new.

“There’s something there to suit all ages.”

As part of the Falkirk Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI), there will be a temporary exhibition and a guided walk to illustrate and explore the living history of the town centre.

There will also be talks and a drop in Lego event at the Howgate Shopping Centre.

The THI is a grant-giving scheme funded by Falkirk Council, HLF, Historic Environment Scotland and others, that will see £5.5 million being invested in Falkirk town centre from 2013 to 2018.

The aim is to help regenerate the area through investing in its unique and rich heritage.

In Bo’ness, Kinneil House will open on Saturday, September 16.

The historic building still houses the best 16th and 17th century murals in Scotland.

However, this year access has also been granted to opening extra rooms in the residential wing and the tower house’s ground floor.

Geoff Bailey, the local Doors Open co-ordinator, said: “Kinneil House is an exceptionally interesting building.

“Historic Environmental Scotland has just opened up new areas which the public have not seen before.

“One of those areas may have been a Royal Chapel.

“People will also have access to the ground floor of the tower house.

“From the bottom of the tower, you can see where the great hall used to be.”

Bo’ness Doors Open Day also heralds the start of Big Roman Week so the grounds of Kinneil will be filled with Roman paraphernalia.

Not all of the buildings are open on both days and times do vary so it’s best to check the Falkirk Community Trust website or pick up a Doors Open booklet at Callendar House, Kinneil Museum or the Booking Office at Falkirk Stadium.

For more details, visit www.doorsopendays.org.uk.