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After dark fun at historic Norwich sites

PUBLISHED: 09:00 11 April 2010 | UPDATED: 09:35 02 July 2010

HEART staff Laura Crossley, left and Sophie Cabot giving a taste of what will welcome youngsters sleeping over in the Guildhall, Norwich.

HEART staff Laura Crossley, left and Sophie Cabot giving a taste of what will welcome youngsters sleeping over in the Guildhall, Norwich.

Sarah Hall

There was a time when spending the night in The Guildhall was something people attempted to avoid at all costs - because it meant you were in prison.

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There was a time when spending the night in The Guildhall was something people attempted to avoid at all costs - because it meant you were in prison.

Indeed, religious reformer Thomas Bilney spent his last night at the Guildhall in 1531 before he was burnt at the stake, and prisoners were still kept there as recently as 1980.

But now, thanks to a pioneering new initiative, brave children are being offered the rare opportunity to spend the night in the historic building - in the magnificent Sword Room or Council Chamber.

Youngsters with nerves of steel will be able to explore the 15th century building after dark, to take part in a Victorian and modern day mock trial in the old court room, to indulge in a midnight feast and to listen to some eerie ghost stories and tales of local legends in the undercroft.

The event has been organised by Norwich HEART (Heritage, Economic and Regeneration Trust) as part of this year's Museums at Night celebrations - a weekend of nocturnal adventures across the country where museums unlock their doors after dark.

This is the first time there is a Museums at Night event in the Guildhall, which is owned by Norwich City Council. The council is hoping Norwich's remarkable historic buildings will help it win the first UK City of Culture title in 2013.

Laura Crossley, project officer at HEART and organiser of the event, said: “This is a unique and exciting opportunity for children to visit one of the city's most outstanding and interesting heritage buildings.

“We believe it is the first time members of the public will have had the opportunity to spend the night in the Guildhall voluntarily and in a fun capacity - rather than as a prison, which is what the building used to be!

“It promises to be a really fun night and hopefully one which will inspire participants to develop or further an interest in local history and the heritage around them.”

The experience runs from 6pm on Saturday, May 15 until 8.30am on Sunday, May 16 and costs £20 per head, which also includes breakfast in the morning.

It is open to boys and girls aged nine to 14 with a maximum of 20 places available. Unfortunately, due to the Guildhall's medieval layout, the event is unsuitable for wheelchair users or those with serious mobility issues.

For more details or to book, call Laura Crossley on 01603 599577, email lauracrossley@heritagecity.org

The Guildhall event is one of eight Museums at Night events taking place in the city this year with others at the Assembly House, the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, Colman's Mustard Shop and Museum, Dragon Hall, The Forum, Norwich Cathedral and the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, making it the biggest Museums at Night programme Norwich has seen.

For full details on the first seven events visit www.heritagecity.org and for the Sainsbury Centre visit www.scva.ac.uk

Make sure you get the Evening News on Fridays for our Going Out section - your guide to what's on in and around Norwich. You can also visit the Going Out section on our website at www.eveningnews24.co.uk

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