The building itself has been dated back to the mid-14th century. It is a unique facility made possible by the generosity of a former Lord of the Manor, Joseph Hardy. The Joseph Hardy Charitable Trust manages the centre with the help of a large group of volunteers.
The origins of the centre go back to 1992 when an exhibition of Henley’s past attracted great interest. This created a desire to set up a permanent centre to preserve and display this information. Joseph Hardy, then Lord of the Manor, decided to put money into the town via an educational trust that would manage a Heritage Centre. The trust was formed in 1995, purchasing and renovating a timber-framed building property on the High Street, during which an architectural survey revealed that the earliest phase of the building dated to 1345, which made it the oldest known vernacular building in Henley.
Inside the centre, various rooms display the town’s history from the Norman Conquest to the present day. The medieval origins of Henley and Beaudesert are highlighted by information about the castle, churches and the market. The trades and transport of the area are explored including the old mills, coaching inns, local businesses and the coming of the railway. Social and domestic life is highlighted with clothes, toys and curiosities. There is also a re-creation of a Victorian schoolroom and a wartime display which includes a replica air raid shelter and 500lb bomb.
The Heritage Centre is open every day except Mondays from April to October (times vary). Entry is free. Further details can be found via the Heritage Centre website.
More information: www.heritagehenley.org.uk