Ancient Library at St Edmundsbury Cathedral

Special Experiences for National Heritage Open Days

We’re offering some exciting behind the scenes tours for visitors to celebrate Heritage Open Days this September.


Heritage Open Days is England’s largest festival of history and culture, involving thousands of local volunteers and organisations. Every year in September it brings people together to celebrate their heritage, community and history. Stories are told, traditions explored, and histories brought to life. It’s the public’s chance to see hidden places and try out new experiences, all free of charge.

Ancient Library at St Edmundsbury Cathedral

The Cathedral is opening the doors of their Ancient Library and the Norman Tower Bellringers will give visitors a chance to view the rarely seen bell tower.


The Ancient Library was founded by Dr Miles Mosse in 1595 as a resource for clergy training. There are over 550 books in the Library, mainly printed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. As part of the Heritage Open Days, 30-minute tours of the library will be available 8, 9, 15 and 16 September. Visitors will be able to explore some of the books in the collection and learn a little more about them with Cathedral Library Guides.


The Norman Tower will be open to visitors to learn more about bellringing on Saturday 9 September. Tours are at 9.45 am, 10.45 am, 11.45 am and 1.30 pm, 2.30 pm and 3.30 pm. A 45-minute visit will include a demonstration of bellringing and a brief history of the Norman Tower, the bells and the art of bellringing. A peal of 12 bells is located in the Norman Tower. The original ten bells were cast in 1785 by Thomas Osborn of Downham Market, with 3 more added between the 1970s and 2000s. The bells are rung on Sundays before the morning and evening services, and also for weddings and other special occasions.


The Norman Tower was previously the main gateway to the Abbey and is detached from the Cathedral. It was built between 1120 and 1148 and is one of the oldest Norman buildings in the UK and one of the most complete Norman buildings in England. The Norman Tower will also be open on Thursday 14 September from 2.00 pm – 5.00 pm as an open session, no pre-booking required.


Sarah Friswell, Visitor Experience Manager at St Edmundsbury Cathedral, says, “We’re thrilled to offer something a little different for visitors during Heritage Open Days. Our Ancient Library is a special space and is a real treat for book lovers and those interested in history. We’re also very grateful to have the Norman Tower Bellringers open up their space to the public.”


All Heritage Open Day sessions are free but must be pre-booked to secure a space. Visit for more information on times available, and to book.