Plans for multi-million pound project to improve Kettering attraction

Wicksteed Park in Kettering
Wicksteed Park in Kettering

Wicksteed Park has revealed a £4.5 million plan to bring the history and heritage of ‘the home of children’s play’ alive to all visitors.

The ambitious project will be launched at a ball celebrating the centenary of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, to be held in the park’s Edwardian Pavilion on January 29.

The first slide that Wicksteed Park wants to recreate

The first slide that Wicksteed Park wants to recreate

The park was founded in 1921 by Charles Wicksteed, the creator of swings and slides as we know them today, as part of his vision to inspire and encourage play as part of families’ health and well-being.

The Wicksteed Charitable Trust was formed to ensure his work continued after his death.

The new restoration and rejuvenation project involves a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £2.5 million alongside £2 million from the trust itself.

Key parts of the plan include restoration and landscaping of the playground reintroducing heritage play equipment including a replica of the first slide in the park and providing a context for the history of the park.

This project is part of a masterplan for the future of the whole park

Oliver Wicksteed

It includes restoring important historical buildings and aspects of the park which have been lost over the decades, restoring aspects of the original rose garden, the fountain lawn and landscaping around the pavilion.

Transforming the Captain’s Lounge at the top of the pavilion building into a learning centre and conference space with an outdoor, walk-around viewing platform so people can enjoy views across the park is also in the plans.

The park’s main thoroughfare is to be rejuvenated, with street furniture and restoration work in keeping with its historic heritage and there will be the creation of a Wicksteed ice cream parlour serving traditional Wicksteed ice cream together with heritage buildings for displays and information all within an area that has not been accessible to the public for generations.

The project comes a year after the completion of a successful Heritage Lottery Fund-backed £3 million project that has restored the park’s lake to its former glory.

Two life-sized bronze figures in the lake, modelled on two young visitors to the park, commemorate the project and have already become a landmark photo opportunity for visitors.

The centenary ball will celebrate the achievements of the trust over the past 100 years, as well as showcasing its vision for the future.

Proceeds will help the Wicksteed Charitable Trust to fund a reproduction of the iconic first slide in the park; a structure that was to change the history of children’s play forever.

Oliver Wicksteed, chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust and Charles Wicksteed’s great grandson, said: “This project is part of a masterplan for the future of the whole park, retaining its historical significance and highlighting its importance from a heritage perspective.

“We want people arriving at the park to understand that they are in a place where key elements of children’s play developed.

“Through physical interpretation and engagement we want to bring the history and heritage of the park alive to all visitors, so everyone who visits will learn about its significance.”

One of the trust’s main goals is to maintain free access to the park despite having no regular external funding to rely on, and the trust is determined to ensure the park has a sustainable future.

The centenary ball is on Friday, January 29, and will celebrate 100 years to the day since the Wicksteed Charitable Trust was formed.

The guest list already includes the Queen’s representative, The Lord Lieutenant of Northamptonshire.

There will be live music from an eight-piece band the Reverend Richard Coles will be speaking.

For more details or to buy tickets visit wicksteedpark.org/events, email boxoffice@wicksteedpark.org or call 01536 512475.

Tickets are £35 each with discounts available for tables of eight people.