Wicksteed Park’s pavilion will be refurbished in a manner which befits one of Kettering’s gems, the park’s management has promised.
The pavilion, opened in 1923 along with the rose garden, is at the heart of the park, itself one of the town’s most famous and popular attractions.
About £200,000 has been earmarked to bring the elegant 90-year-old structure back to its former glory.
It was built by Charles Wicksteed as part of his plans for the first public park and leisure facility in Britain.
The founder of the park did not intend for it to be a money-making venture, hoping instead to create somewhere safe for children to play.
Within a few years of its opening, demand for the pavilion was so great that it had to be extended.
It became well known as a place for parties and to mark special occasions throughout the roaring ‘20s, the rocking ‘50s, the swinging ‘60s and beyond.
By 1936, up to 4,000 teas a day were served to guests in the pavilion, whose capacity was then 2,000, having been substantially increased in order to cope with the growing demand.
The pavilion’s current capacity is smaller, at about 1,000.
By the mid-1950s, more than a million cups of tea and half a million meals were being served there every year.
The only time the partying at the pavilion stopped was during the Second World War, when it was used as a base by the UK and American military, with the 1384th Trucking Unit basd there – although even during the war some dances were held at the pavilion, as long as accommodation levels permitted.
Oliver Wicksteed, chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust and Charles Wicksteed’s great-grandson, said the 90th birthday of the pavilion was the ideal opportunity to undertake renovations at what he described as a unique and treasured facility.
He added: “The pavilion has provided 90 years of wonderful memories for the people of Kettering, and further afield.
“Everywhere I go I meet people who have enjoyed either a wedding, a show or some other kind of event or function in what is a wonderful example of Edwardian architecture.
“We are aware that the building needs to be refurbished to keep pace with demand for more celebrations of this kind, along with large banquets and corporate functions.”
The pavilion has been extended many times over the years. In 1927 the North Room was opened, which later became the popular Ice Cream Parlour.
Eight years later the South Room was opened and an extension to the Ice Cream Parlour was created. The pavilion shelter on the north end and the west side extension were added in 1937.
Because of rationing during the Second World War, the Wicksteed Park trustees brought in a herd of goats in order to obtain milk for the ice cream.