A plaque to honour the life of Wicksteed Park’s founder was unveiled last week.
More than 100 years ago Charles Wicksteed made the first swing and began manufacturing play equipment from his engineering works in Digby Street, Kettering.
In 1913 he bought a parcel of agricultural land south-east of Kettering and formed the Wicksteed Village Trust.
His intention was to provide a model village for the working classes at below-average rents, offering generous gardens and a large open public space for recreation and play.
Charles, who died in 1931, realised the importance of play in children’s lives and by 1918, his firm was making vast quantities of playground equipment not just for his park but also to sell commercially, manufacturing and installing play equipment to public parks and schools across the UK and around the world.
Over the decades they made a dazzling array of equipment, from pioneering metal slides, the plank swing or ‘jazz’ (an ingenious cross between a swing and a see-saw), to the Ocean Wave (a ring-shaped platform on which a group of children sat or stood to revolve around a central pole) and the beloved Wicksteed Rocking Horse.
Wicksteed Park opened in 1921 and his company, now trading as Wicksteed Playgrounds, is still going strong to this day.
A plaque celebrating his life was unveiled at the Digby Street site by Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care.
Lord Howard, chairman of Wicksteed, also welcomed the Mayor and Mayoress of Kettering to the ceremony.
Several staff who have been with the company for more than 40 years and a large number of others who have been there for more than 25 years were also present.
Oliver Wicksteed, great grandson of Charles Wicksteed and chairman of Wicksteed Park, was also present as were members of the Kettering Civic Society.