Wicksteed Park: Memories of one of Peterborough residents’ favourite days out

The famous Wicksteed Park train, pictured in the 1960sThe famous Wicksteed Park train, pictured in the 1960s
The famous Wicksteed Park train, pictured in the 1960s
The news that Wicksteed Park in neighbouring Northamptonshire has hit troubled times will have come as a hammer blow to generations of Peterborians.

For decades it has been one of the most popular family days out for city residents.

Although a little ‘off patch’ I thought Looking Back readers might enjoy some pictures (courtesy of our sister paper the Northants Telegraph) of the park in the past.

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The Wicksteed Park pavilion in its heyday.The Wicksteed Park pavilion in its heyday.
The Wicksteed Park pavilion in its heyday.

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The park opened in 1921, making it the oldest theme park on UK mainland.

Its founder, Charles Wicksteed, was the son of a Unitarian Minster and one of 21 children. He purchased the land in 1913. His initial goal was to create a model village for the local community.

However, following World War One and housing reforms, Charles looked to develop a park for people to spend their leisure time which was free for all.

A rammed Wicksteed Park in the 1950sA rammed Wicksteed Park in the 1950s
A rammed Wicksteed Park in the 1950s

The large lake, a significant feature of the park, was dug by hand and steam ploughs in 1916-17.

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In 1922 what is thought to be the world’s first slide – made of wooden planks – was installed at the park. The park is also home to the oldest water chute in the world! Charles Wicksteed, designed it himself.

It was installed in 1926, and is also believed to be the oldest working ride in the UK.

The narrow gauge railway, a favourite with visitors, was opened in 1931.

Who doesn't love the park's water chute?Who doesn't love the park's water chute?
Who doesn't love the park's water chute?

As an inventor and engineer Charles designed and built play equipment, often using bits and pieces from his engineering business, and creating swings and slides to thrill young and old alike.

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This business grew, and today it exports play equipment to over 80 countries around the world.

Hopefully, the park will be saved and future Peterborough families can be among those to enjoy its charms.

- Toby Wood is vice-chairman of Peterborough Civic Society