AS part of the Monmouth Open Doors weekend, organised by Monmouth Civic Society as part of the European Heritage days, no less than 19 historic buildings and sites opened their doors in the town.

Mason Andrew Crump was on hand to show people round the Monmouth Masonic hall, and detailed its 800-year-old history.

“It incorporates stonework from one of the old town wall’s guard towers, and we’ve got arrow slits going back to the 1200s. Later it was an Elizabethan theatre space and also a wool store, with evidence of a quay on the Monnow below for transporting wool down to Chepstow and up to the northern mills.

“In 1846, Lord Llangattock made it into the Masonic Hall, which it has been for over 170 years, and we’re delighted to show people. We’ve had a steady stream over the weekend and it’s great to see people who’ve lived here all their lives seeing it for the first time.”

Visitor Lucy Bennett-Downes said: “We live right opposite, but have never been inside - it’s an amazing building with a fascinating history.”

Dilly Boase from Monmouth Civic Society was busy showing people round the 13th century Monnow Bridge gatehouse.

“We had nearly 200 in yesterday and lots more today,” said Dilly. “It’s great to see people from the town coming in who’ve never seen this history on their doorstep.”

One visitor was Osbaston Primary pupil Belle Hilu, six, who said after climbing to the guardhouse: “It’s a bit dark and creepy. I wouldn’t want to live 800 years ago.”

Monmouth’s Nelson Garden, where the naval hero took tea with Lady Hamilton in 1802, proved popular, . “It’s a hidden treasure, really beautiful and right in the heart of the town,” said Louisa Lewis, who visited with sons William and Jack.

Helena Gerrish of the Nelson Garden Preservation Trust said: “The town clerk, who lived in what is now Lloyds Bank behind the garden, invited Nelson here for tea, and the seat on the pavilion, built as a memorial to him in the 1840s, is the one the admiral actually sat on 216 years ago.

“We had an £86,000 Lottery grant last year to renovate the pavilion and hot wall, used for growing soft fruits. The garden is an absolute oasis and we’re open for anyone to visit, Thursdays to Saturdays, 10am to 4pm.”

Foresters Karen Stephens and Sharon Hodgson were impressed with a sneak peek inside Monmouth’s 150-year-old three-storey Malthouse, where barley was kiln-dried for brewing beer.

Restoration work is ongoing, and Sharon said: “It’s huge, much bigger inside than it looks from the front, and has got a really interesting history. It’s a great idea to open up these buildings, which most people know nothing about.”

Other town buildings open to the public included Drybridge House, the Shire Hall, Great Castle House, the Savoy Theatre, six churches and the Kymin Round House.

•See this week’s Review for more photographs.