The Kettering park will return to the ideals of its founder

Wicksteed Park

Wicksteed Park, near Kettering in Northamptonshire, has received initial support of £1.89 million from the National Lottery Fund, to transform the historic heart of the park, showcase its heritage, and enhance the enjoyment of play in line with the original vision of its founder, Charles Wicksteed.

The 147 acres of parkland were originally established as a safe and free park for the families and children of Kettering, a philanthropic gesture by engineer Charles Wicksteed during World War One.  It was one of the UK’s first leisure parks and continues to be operated by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust.

In the past, lack of funding has prevented the park from reaching its full potential as a heritage and learning resource for the local community and the large number of visitors who use the Park. The intention of the new project, called @Play, is to restore it to its former glory.

Thanks to the support of the HLF, the @Play project will invite people to learn about the heritage of the park and the importance of play. The project will complement the restoration of the central piazza and precinct which will provide an improved welcome to the park. A substantial education and learning programme will also be delivered in the form of inventive events and activities.

The plans also include:

  • conservation and capital works, including restoration of the pavilion, verandah walkway, and rose garden;
  • returning inappropriate paths and access roads near the pavilion to parkland and pedestrian areas;
  • creation of a Heritage Play Area, featuring original or replica Wicksteed play equipment;
  • delivery of a Festival of Play with a national focus to celebrate play in all its forms;
  • introduction of new volunteering activities through the development of the volunteers network and a new cohort of volunteer park explainers and hosts to tell people about the history of the park;
  • an Innovation Awards competition for inventions with a social or environmental benefit;
  • an annual programme of engaging heritage and community events diversifying audiences and animating the park’s rich cultural and social heritage;
  • creation of a sculpture trail recreating iconic images from the park’s archives, with interactive sculpture and way markers

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