Here at Wicksteed we are proud of our heritage and every day we aim to continue the legacy left behind by Charles Wicksteed to allow kids to continue playing and exploring in his park.
A Short History
Wicksteed Park opened in 1921, making it the oldest theme park on UK mainland. Its founder, Charles Wicksteed purchased the land in 1913. His initial goal was to create a model village for the local community, however following World War One and housing reforms, Charles looked to develop a park for people to spend their leisure time. He set up a charitable trust in 1916 and went on to build a number of prefabricated houses – some of which still exist and are within the park grounds.
The large lake, a significant feature of the park, was dug by hand and steam ploughs in 1916-17. The railway, a favourite with visitors, was opened in 1931.
As an inventor and engineer Charles designed and built play equipment, often using bits and pieces from his engineering business, and creating swings and slides to thrill young and old alike. This business grew, eventually exporting play equipment to over 80 countries around the world.
Wicksteed Park is much more than an amusement park and continues to attract thousands of visitors each year to play and explore in its beautiful grounds.
By Andy Percival
Oil paint on canvas
“Swings, slides and roundabouts, parks and playgrounds are the background to many of our freest and most joyful childhood memories. They are something that we all share, generations of us, from all over Britain, but this is where it all started. Wicksteed Park is truly somewhere amazing and very special.
Here, nearly a century ago Charles Wicksteed put into practice his deep-held belief that all children, no matter how rich or poor, should have somewhere safe and fun to play outdoors. Public parks in Charles’ own youth had been very formal places where you walked sedately along the paths, keeping off the grass. He was determined to provide something different and here at Wicksteed he did just that, using his engineering skills to provide a new and exciting element to public open spaces.
Almost as soon as it opened Charles began to see that the playground that he had dreamt up for local children to use, was really something for all ages, everywhere, that it offered something new and was something that filled a very real need.
All these years later and the park is still a place for all, a place to play, to relax, to enjoy the thrill of a ride and to challenge yourself just as Charles had hoped. He would, I think, be delighted if he could see just how many people continue to use and enjoy this patch of freedom. And delighted too to see just how far his idea has spread.
It is good to see this story of Kettering’s contribution to our nation’s health and happiness being celebrated and to remember that Wicksteed is a place with an incredible heritage and an exciting future.”