A re-creation of the first ever playground slide has been unveiled, at the park where modern children’s play equipment was invented.
Charles Wicksteed created swings and slides as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.
The first ever slide was installed at Wicksteed Park, Kettering, after he opened it to the public in 1921 and was an instant hit with local children, leading to be park becoming known as the home of children’s play.
Now the iconic playground favourite, complete with wooden steps and sturdy timber planks bolted together to make a 30ft long slide, has been re-created as part of the park’s project to bring the history of children’s play to life.
It is based on original drawings of the first slide so modern day children can experience the same thrills that their counterparts did back in the 1920s – and it has already proved a hit ahead of its official opening next month.
Charles Wicksteed, who made his fortune in engineering, opened Wicksteed Park to encourage young people and families to enjoy unrestricted outdoor play.
Before then, public parks were typically very formal places, where children were warned to keep off the grass.
The joy the children got from his primitive swings and slides pushed him on to create more and more play equipment, which became so popular that it was exported around the world.
In his 1928 book, A Plea for Children’s Recreation after School Hours and after School Age, Charles proclaimed: “I have good reason to believe that the park I have formed has changed the lives for the better, to a greater or lesser extent of thousands of children.
“I have direct evidence from mothers how whining, pale-faced children, complaining of any food they get, have come back with healthy faces and rosy complexions, ready to eat the house out after a good play in the playground.”
The project to re-create the first ever slide has been overseen by Oliver Wicksteed, Charles’ great grandson and the Chairman of Wicksteed Charitable Trust.
The Trust was formed to ensure Charles’ work continued after his death and money towards the cost of the slide was raised at a ball to mark its centenary last year.
Oliver Wicksteed said: “This iconic structure will help us to tell the story of the development of children’s play, for which Wicksteed Park has been identified as of international significance.
“The story of the park and the man behind it has had a huge impact, not just locally, but in the whole way we treat parks and children’s play as a nation.
“Through physical interpretation and engagement we want to bring the history of the park alive to all visitors. In so doing everyone who visits will learn about our significant heritage and just how vital play is for the development of our children and the recreation of the first slide is part of that aim.”
Wicksteed Park, near Kettering, combines 147 acres of beautiful parkland with attractions such as rollercoasters and rides.
It has a host of new attractions for 2017, including the fantastic new Sway Rider wave swing.