History enthusiasts are being given a rare opportunity to explore South Tyneside's rich culture and fascinating architecture with the return of Heritage Open Days this September.
Heritage Open Days provide visitors with a unique chance to discover and enjoy, sometimes hidden and often curious architectural treasures, with free access to properties that are usually closed to the public or normally charge for admission.
This year's initiative is running from Friday 10 September to Sunday 19 September.
With a programme of more than 20 fascinating activities and events, including online screenings, guided tours and walks across South Tyneside, there is something for all ages and abilities.
The Mayor of South Tyneside, Councillor Pat Hay said: "Heritage Open Days offer people a brilliant opportunity to discover more about South Tyneside's rich history and take a closer look at some of the fabulous architectural treasures right on their doorstep.
"There is a wonderful range of events taking place this year bringing the Borough's local history to life and enabling people to go behind the scenes or go somewhere new which would normally be closed to the public or usually charge a fee.
"We have a great wealth of historic and culturally important buildings, places and events that capture our rich and diverse heritage and I am delighted to see so many venues taking part this year.
"Whether visitors are interested in history, architecture or culture, this is a great opportunity to be inspired to get to know more about the heritage of South Tyneside while enjoying some unique experiences with all the family."
Visitors can join the Mayor on special tours of South Shields Town Hall with its stunning oak-panelled chambers and marble corridors as well as Jarrow Town Hall, remembered as the place where the famous Jarrow marchers set off for London in 1936. To reserve a place on the Town Hall Tours, call the Civic Office on (0191) 424 7331.
Visitors can also enjoy unique talks about the life of Sir Charles Mark Palmer and hear about the lasting industrial and political impact he had on the Jarrow area. The talks must be booked in advance by calling (0191) 427 1818.
Jarrow Hall, Anglo Saxon farm, village and Bede Museum, is offering free tours of its beautiful Medieval Herb Garden. However, they must be booked in advance at www.jarrowhall.com
Whitburn Local History Group is giving people a unique chance to go inside the Grade II Listed Whitburn Windmill which has undergone restoration work over recent years. The group is also holding special walks for people to get an insight into the history of the village.
Special walks along South Shields riverside will delve into the area's rich maritime history, exploring the Tyne Pilots, where they lived and worked. Pre-booking is required by calling the Visitor Information Centre on (0191) 424 7788.
Local history enthusiasts can also join the Friends of North and South Marine Parks on a Heritage Walk around the Victorian seafront parks.
There is also an opportunity to enjoy guided tours of the Flesh on the Bones exhibition at Arbeia Roman Fort and enjoy 'meet and greets' with Roman soldiers. Pre-booking is required for the tours at www.arbeiaromanfort.org.uk
Award winning animator, artist and trailblazing teacher Sheila Graber will be offering a tour of her exhibition Sheila from Shields, her cat and the rainbow at South Shields Museum & Art Gallery. Reserve a space at www.southshieldsmuseum.org.uk
South Shields Volunteer Life Brigade is opening its doors again this year giving access to its historic Watch House and an insight into the heritage of the service which has served the area for more than 150 years.
Souter Lighthouse, National Trust property in Whitburn, will also be taking part in Heritage Open Days and inviting people to learn about life as a lighthouse keeper.
A number of church buildings are also taking part this year. People can find out more about the home of the Venerable Bede and beginnings of English Christianity at St Paul's Church and Monastic Site in Jarrow, discover memorial tablets from Saxon times at St Nicholas' Church in West Boldon and hear from Jean Stokes about local farmland at St Peter's Church in Harton Village.
Online screenings include a short film about St Hilda's Pit: Past, Present and Future at www.creativeseed.org. South Tyneside Libraries YouTube channel will also showcase a special film Humanity and Courage featuring a selection of pictures, taken by local photographer Amy Flagg, which recorded the air raid damage in South Shields during World War II.
Other attractions include a cuppa and a look behind the scenes of the Age Concern Tyneside South (ACTS) early Victorian townhouse in South Shields Town Centre as they share some of the objects the building's first occupants would have used. Booking is required by calling ACTS on (0191) 456 6903.
The Friends of Temple Memorial Park are also hosting a walk through the 175 acre site to learn about the park's history from farmland to park land, it's heritage, wildlife, wildflowers and trees.