Heritage Open Days celebrates and champions the fact that history belongs to all of us. Whatever our age, race, religion, or sexuality, our heritage both defines and creates who we are, and what we want to be. So this year we thought we’d discover the history and stories of our sponsors, event organisers and other local people. And we are delighted that our first story begins with Dr Tim Hands, the new Headmaster of Winchester College.
Dr Hands was educated in the state sector, studying the violin at the Guildhall before reading English at King’s College, London. Previous roles include Stipendiary Lecturer at Oriel College, Oxford, teaching at King’s School, Canterbury and Headmaster of The Portsmouth Grammar School. Prior to his appointment at Winchester College Dr Hands was Headmaster of Magdalen College School in Oxford, where not only did he drive up academic standards, he developed extended relationships with the city of Oxford, including initiating a highly-regarded Arts Festival. With this background it is perhaps not surprising that Dr Hands has a close interest in Winchester College’s history and heritage. He is hugely helped in understanding how the school’s history connects with the local and national scene by his Personal Assistant – Mary Witton – who also has a strong interest in heritage and how it is accessed by all. This is Dr Hand’s Heritage Open Days story:
What inspired you to get involved with Heritage Open Days? The idea of opening up to the public to show what we have to offer is very much part of Winchester College’s mission. Last year, for example, we opened our new Treasury to the public, and it has attracted many visitors to its unique collection — admission charges are being waived for Heritage Open Day.
You are running events this year. Tell us a little bit more about them. This year we are not only sponsoring the overall programme, but inside the College we are trying to offer one or two opportunities that are just that little bit more special. For example, Our standard tour doesn’t take in our War Cloister, a grade 1 listed building which is part of our 20th century heritage and commemorates over 500 boys who died in the First World War. There is a very impressive inscription around the top and I think visitors will find it deeply moving.
What do you think visitors will enjoy most? Probably I think that what people will be most surprised by is our archive and where it is stored. If you watch the film of Les Miserables then you get a view of a medieval chapel and then the camera pans upwards to take in an aerial shot of all of Paris. Don’t be deceived. That Chapel is in our Cloister, and is what houses part of our archive. The outside is pretty special, but the inside is arguably even more so. It’s being specially opened up as part of our weekend contribution.
The involvement of Dr Hands and his team at Winchester College has had such a positive impact. Not only has their sponsorship enabled us to print an amazing programme but their decision to open even more venues will, we think, make this year’s festival extra special. So a huge thank you to you all for helping us celebrate our heritage.
And on that note I thought I’d finish with a rather lovely quote from Dr Hands when he responded to our question about why celebrating our culture and heritage is important to him.
The school was founded by William of Wykeham. He was a local boy, who wanted to celebrate his Winchester origins and show his gratitude to the city and county. He was also a prominent player on the national stage, and keen in that role to promote the best possible kind of education. That’s the heritage we try to celebrate, and the Open Days provide us with a wonderful opportunity for that.