Video: A look back at our history

HISTORIC buildings across Comet country gave visitors a taste of their past as part of National Heritage Open Day at the weekend. Buildings opened their doors for free and allowed people to explore the rich heritage of our towns and villages. The Cloister

HISTORIC buildings across Comet country gave visitors a taste of their past as part of National Heritage Open Day at the weekend.

Buildings opened their doors for free and allowed people to explore the rich heritage of our towns and villages.

The Cloisters, now the North Herts Masonic Centre, and the Spirella building were among two of 20 venues open in Letchworth GC.

On Saturday there were guided tours of the Cloisters, a Grade II listed building built in 1905 and regarded as one of the great historic buildings of North Herts, given to local freemasons by its builder, a Quaker named Annie Lawrence after the local council turned it down in 1948.


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On Sunday there was a fete and open day at The Cloisters which is now used by around 60 masonic lodges.

At the Spirella Building it was a case of going down memory lane for two ladies. Lady Valerie Skeet and Shirley Green were Spirella models in the 1950s and met for the first time in 53 years on Saturday.

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An exhibition of Spirella's history took place in the magnificent ballroom of the building that is now the headquarters of the Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation.

The Foundation also laid on 20 works of art from its Heritage Museum capturing the social history of the town, exclusive tours of the 1905

Exhibition Cottage led by the Exhibition Cottages Group, offered limited edition souvenir postcards, viewings of the entries from the Picture This 2009 photographic competition and a free minibus service to many of the other venues.

A spokesman for the Foundation said thousands of visitors from near and far attended the Spirella Building and the other events in the town over the weekend.

At the restored St Mary's Church in Caldecote, the Heritage Open Day brought two special guests. One was Mrs Dorothy Cox from Letchworth GC, who was baptised and married at the church and later kept it clean.

The other was Mrs Vivien Smith from Biggleswade, whose grandmother, Eva Clarke, used to play regularly at the church on her harmonium. When she died her family kindly donated it to the church, where it has been restored to full working order.

Donations from visitors will go towards further work on the church and some visitors bought spring bulbs which will be planted in the graveyard.

The British Schools Museum in Hitchin, the Bath House in Stevenage, and village churches also opened their doors for talks and exhibitions and there were guided walks around the area as well.

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