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Rare insights into Florence Nightingale and Jane Austen at Hampshire’s historic venues

Visitors can enjoy rare access to items such as Florence Nightingale’s letters, Jane Austen’s baptism record and a ‘sneak peek’ of the restoration of Royal Victoria Country Park’s historic chapel - all for free as part of this year’s Heritage Open Days.

A number of Hampshire County Council sites will open their doors as part of the national initiative held every September.

The County Council’s Executive Member for Culture, Recreation and Countryside, Councillor Andrew Gibson, said: “We’re lucky in Hampshire to have such a fantastic variety of iconic buildings, monuments and artefacts - each telling their own stories from the past, for current and future generations to enjoy and remember.

“Visitors to Hampshire Record Office can, amongst other documents, view letters by Florence Nightingale, as well as the baptism record of Hampshire’s very own Jane Austen, which is particularly poignant in the bicentenary year of her death.

“Also, visitors to Royal Victoria Country Park will be able to tour the restoration work inside the historical chapel, which has been closed to the public for over a year.”

Heritage Open Days being held at County Council venues include:

Serle’s House, Winchester - 7 and 8 September

Housed with the Museum of the County Regiment for Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, visitors can view the entrance, main staircase and reception rooms of 18th century Serle’s House, which has paintings and period items from both military and County Council collections.

The Great Hall, Winchester - 7 to 10 September

Famed for being the home of the legendary King Arthur’s Round Table, explore the Great Hall's past as a law court. Delve into the history of this former castle, join the Charles II and King’s House tours, and hear the legends of King Arthur. Hampshire Record Office, Winchester - 9 September, 1.00pm

View letters by Florence Nightingale, Jane Austen’s baptism register, the diaries of Crimean War soldiers and medieval manorial Pipe Rolls with their impressive dragon illustrations. An archive film will be played by Wessex Film and Sound Archive revealing the amazing visual and audio resources they hold.

Lepe Country Park, Lepe - 9 September

Explore Lepe's history with a particular focus on its role in the run up to D-Day and during the Cold War. Exhibitions, talks, children's trails and guided walks take place throughout the day.

Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley - 9 and 10 September

  • Sneak Peek Chapel tours – 11.00am to 4.00pm

Don a hard hat and hi-vis jacket to take part in an exclusive 'Conservation in Action' tour of the Chapel. See the newly restored ceiling brought back to its original Victorian splendour, check out the views from the scaffold, and find out more about this exciting conservation project.

  • Park and Cemetery tours – 10.30am and 2.00pm

Personally commissioned by Queen Victoria, the Royal Victoria Military Hospital used to dominate the site that is now the country park. Walk in the footsteps of the soldiers, patients and nurses, and hear their life stories on one of the guided walks.

  • Empire Room exhibition - 11.00am to 4.00pm

Drop in and meet the team of volunteers, listen to talks, take part in a range of children’s activities and object handling sessions about the history of the site, and the conservation project.

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