Key Facts about Wicksteed Park
- Wicksteed Park is rightfully proud of its heritage as the home of children’s play.
- The Kettering park was founded in 1921 by Charles Wicksteed as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.
- He established the The Wicksteed Charitable Trust to carry out his work after his death and to keep his dream alive.
- For more over 90 years children have been thrilled by a visit to Wicksteed and its wonders.
- Today the attraction combines the excitements of rollercoasters and rides with the tranquillity of an historic 147-acre country park.
- Born in Leeds in 1847, the son of a clergymen, philanthropist Charles was a highly successful businessmen who settled in Kettering made his fortune from engineering.
- He bought the land that is now named after him at the start of the Great War and contributed to the war effort by manufacturing munitions
- At the end of the conflict he decided it was time to give something back to the town that he loved and to its workers.
- His initial vision was to create a village estate for the poor of the area, with parklands and lakes promoting healthy living. The plan was later modified when the government announced council housing.
- It was during the development and creation of his park that he became a manufacturer of play equipment – initially for local youngsters visiting it to enjoy the country environment.
- He got the idea creating things for children to play on during a Sunday School treat held in the park.
- The joy the children got from his primitive swings and slide pushed him on to create more and more play equipment.
- Soon, Wicksteed Park was crammed with every kind of equipment imaginable, much invented by Charles and his innvovative company.
- His swings and slides were soon being exported and enjoyed by children in parks and playgrounds across the world.
- The arrival of the “roaring Twenties” saw thousands of people flock to Wicksteed to enjoy the first park of its kind in the UK.
- It offered children the opportunity to play freely and safely on the newly-invented equipment.
- Families could also taste the outdoor life together and all ages enjoyed swimming, paddling and boating in a shallow, purpose-built lake.
- The park’s fame spread far and wide and special trains and “charabancs” brought crowds from an ever-widening area.
- Wicksteed Park was on its way to becoming one of the first leisure parks in the UK and an idea for providing fun and relaxation that has been copied many times since.
- In 1921 the construction of the Wicksteed Park Lake began. Today it holds 25 million gallons of water and has created many happy memories for visitors.
- The park has benefitted from a £2million restoration project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Kettering Borough Council and Northamptonshire County Council to return the lake to former glories and create a host of new attractions for 2014, including a paddling area for toddlers, a beach and a 90m pontoon.
- Five years later Charles introduced one of the first water-based rides in the world with the installation of the water chute.
- This was the park’s first ‘White Knuckle Ride’ and the experience has been described as being a bit like sitting in a skip and being thrown into a river.
- It still entertains visitors today – one of only three rides of its type still in operation.
- The ‘Waterchute’ was followed in 1928 with a cycle track, now known as the Arena, and the Wicksteed Pavilion – which today hosts popular musical shows to entertain visitors.
- Many more attractions added in the following years. The famous Wicksteed Railway was begun in 1930 and was to become Charles’ last legacy for his park.
- It was to become the busiest passenger-carrying light railway in the UK but sadly days before it could be opened in 1931 influenza and pneumonia took his life.
- However, there is no doubt that Charles would be delighted with the way the park that bears his name has continued to develop.
- It still operates as a free playground within a public park, owned and managed by the Wicksteed Trust, within which members of the Wicksteed family still play a large part.
- With rides ranging from the Pirate Ship to Rocky Falls log flume, there is plenty to keep children and families entertained.
- The stunning and newly-renovated Edwardian Pavilion still hosts highly-acclaimed live music shows and is the perfect venue for weddings, special occasions and private parties.
- The 147 acres of Wicksteed is fully utilised with recent developments on the camping site, many outdoor events and also new luxury lodges for visitors to enjoy the Wicksteed experience.
- Today it is fair to say Wicksteed Park remains the home of child’s play. Charles would have had it no other way.
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