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An Aladdin's cave of treasures opens to the public in Bedfordshire

Visitors to Wrest Park in Bedfordshire will be given access via special tours of a warehouse. Photo:

An Aladdin's cave of treasures containing more than 153,000 artefacts from prehistoric antlers to Victorian banisters is to open its doors to the public.

Visitors to Wrest Park in Bedfordshire will be given access via special tours of a warehouse containing a third of all the stored artefacts cared for by English Heritage.

The new archaeological collections store at Wrest Park contains items ranging from buckles, brooches and coins, to fireplaces, doors, and a huge crane used for changing street light bulbs in Covent Garden.

The artefacts have been brought together into a single £1.86 million location, having previously been spread over five leased buildings, in a move which required more than 80 lorry loads and involved moving objects such as a 28ft (8.5m) long cast-iron beam from St George's Hospital, London.

Now Indiana Jones wannabes can join tours through the enormous shelves of the 15,650 sq ft (1,454 sq m) warehouse and see highlights of the collection from neolithic finds to Roman bridges.

Some of the strangest items include a series of almost 8ft (2.4m) tall "bell jacks", statues based on 16th century tradesmen, with moving arms which would have held hammers to strike bells, from the roof of the old Columbia market in Bethnal Green, London.

The store also houses a collection from Kirby Hall in Corby, including fragments of 17th century painted window glass designed to impress Elizabeth I, glass seals for wine bottles, clay pipes and ornate clips and buckles that used to be sewn into garments.

There are also archaeological pieces unearthed at Wroxeter Roman city and Haughmond Abbey, Shropshire, and also more than 6,000 objects from London houses including nearly 1,000 wallpapers.

The whole collection, from boxes containing tiny copper pins upwards, has been checked, updated and recorded on a database, and can be tracked using a new bar code system, English Heritage said.

English Heritage curator Charlotte Newman said: "We are really excited to show visitors behind the scenes in the store and give them a chance to see our collections not normally on display."

Visitors to Wrest Park will be able join tours on the first Monday of every month from June for an extra £3 per person.