Photographs have been unearthed that are believed to show the UK’s first playground swing, in Wicksteed Park.
Historians have discovered photos of the swing – built 90 years ago with long ropes and no safety surface.
Children can be seen swinging perilously high on the swings, which are suspended on ropes from metal poles over a hard floor.
The play equipment is believed to have been built in 1923 in Kettering’s popular Wicksteed Park, which was the first park of its kind in the UK.
The equipment was designed by the park’s owner Charles Wicksteed as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.
Initially he made swings and slides for his park, then went on to manufacture and sell them around the world. Charles Wicksteed later explained how the swings came about almost by chance. He said: “We had a Sunday School treat in the park and put up primitive swings with large poles, tied together at the top with chains.
“Fortunately they were not cleared away with the other things the day after the treat and I ultimately found them so popular that instead of pulling them down I added more.”
In his 1928 book, A Plea for Children’s Recreation After School Hours and After School Age, he said: “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 photographs were released as the park launched a worldwide appeal to trace the oldest remaining working models of Wicksteed play equipment.
The photos were discovered as part of a project to archive the history of the park, and show children sitting and even standing on the swings, with people watching below.
In some of the pictures the children are swinging so high it looks as though they are about to turn upside down.
Another photo shows a different type of swing, made from a long plank of wood and capable of squeezing on 12 children.
They are seen sitting astride the wooden plank with nothing to stop them slipping off as the swing is pushed into the air.
Oliver Wicksteed, chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust and Charles Wicksteed’s great-grandson, said: “These days health and safety legislation would never allow swings like this. But in the 1920s if you fell off and tore your trousers you would get a clip round the ear from your dad, not a six-figure pay-out.
“People have been making swings for hundreds of years but we believe these are rare photographs of the first modern swings to be used in the traditional playground setting that we all know today.
“We are very proud of Charles Wicksteed and the revolutionary way he changed leisure time forever.
“He helped prompt a healthier lifestyle by providing a wonderful open space and unique play equipment for ordinary, working class people.
“Wicksteed play equipment literally went to the four corners of the earth and we are appealing for people to get in touch, either directly or through Twitter and Facebook, to let us know about the Wicksteed equipment they have enjoyed and send us pictures.”
Charles Wicksteed, who was born in 1847, opened Wicksteed Park after the First World War.
Email your memories and pictures to Wicksteed Park.