Abbey Park, Leicester

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Bridge over River Soar, Abbey Park
Abbey site

Abbey Park is a public park in Leicester, England, through which the River Soar flows. It is owned and managed by Leicester City Council,

Planning for the park was underway by 1879, as part of designs by the borough surveyors for the relief of flooding in the area.[1] Opened on 29 May 1882 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, the park was created in an area that had previously been described as "marshy ground in a poor district" at a cost of over £40,000.[2][3] The works included the widening and deepening of the river over a length of around a mile, with the excavated earth used to create mounds within the park, as well as the construction of stone weirs and locks.[4] Three new bridges were constructed crossing the river.[4] An artificial lake was created and over 33,000 trees planted.[4] Excavations as part of the work discovered remains of animals including elephants and rhinoceros.[4] The park was extended in 1932.[5]

The park has an area of 57 acres, and contains the site of the 12th century Leicester Abbey, which is marked out with low stone walls, and the ruins of Cavendish House (built in the 17th century by William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire using stone from the abbey).[6][5] The house was used by Charles I after the siege of Leicester during the English civil war in 1645; after he left, his soldiers set fire to it leaving the house gutted. The charred stone window frame is still visible today. The abbey ruins contain a memorial to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was buried in the grounds. He died while en route from York to London on 29 November 1530; a statue of him stands next to the Park's cafe.[7][8] Two lodges designed by architect Mr. J. Tait were built at the Abbey Road entrance to the park.[9]

The park has regularly[when?] won the Green Flag Award, a national award made annually to parks which reach a high standard.[10] It has formal gardens, a sensory garden, a boating lake and model boat lake, a miniature railway, visitor centre, cafe, children's play area with paddling pool, pets corner, tennis courts, a bowling green, and a bandstand.[6]

The park was the site of an annual flower show dating back to the 19th century, which included a swimming gala and evolved into the Abbey Park Show in the 1940s, with the addition a range of entertainment and displays. It continued until 1995, when it was abolished due to falling attendances and rising costs.[11] It was also the site of the Pageant of Leicester, held in 1932.[12] The Abbey Park Festival was an annual music festival which was held for over twenty years from 1981.[13][14]

The Abbey has been the site of training excavations by Archaeology students at Leicester University.[15]

Abbey Park now also houses the offices and studios of Takeover Radio within one of its Gatehouse Lodges.[16]


  1. ^ "Local Notes". Leicester Chronicle and Mercury (British Newspaper Archive). 27 September 1879. Retrieved 29 June 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  2. ^ "Royal Visit to Leicestershire". Nottingham Evening Post (British Newspaper Archive). 5 January 1882. Retrieved 29 June 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  3. ^ "Mr Leicester: Fifty-seven heavenly acres", Leicester Mercury, 24 June 2014. Retrieved 24 June 2014
  4. ^ a b c d "Opening of a Public Park for Leicester". Alnwick Mercury (British Newspaper Archive). 3 June 1882. Retrieved 29 June 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  5. ^ a b Fieldhouse, Ken & Woudstra, Jan (2000) The Regeneration of Public Parks, Taylor & Francis, ISBN 978-0419259008, p. 46
  6. ^ a b Dalton, Nick (2012) Frommer's England and the Best of Wales, John Wiley & Sons, ISBN 978-1118287675, p. 555
  7. ^ Kemp, David (1992) Pleasures and Treasures of Britain: A Discerning Traveller's Companion, Dundurn Group Ltd, ISBN 978-1550021592, p. 260
  8. ^ Pearson, Lynn F. (2004) Discovering Famous Graves, Shire Publications Ltd., ISBN 978-0747806196, p. 47
  9. ^ "Leicester Town Council". Leicester Chronicle (British Newspaper Archive). 19 March 1881. Retrieved 29 June 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ "Green Flags for Leicester parks and open spaces", BBC, 25 July 2011. Retrieved 24 June 2014
  11. ^ "Leicester city mayor Sir Peter Soulsby backs return of Abbey Park Show", Leicester Mercury, 17 September 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2014
  12. ^ "A Leicester Pageant". Hull Daily Mail (British Newspaper Archive). 5 May 1932. Retrieved 19 June 2014. (subscription required (help)). 
  13. ^ "Abbey Park Festival", BBC. Retrieved 29 June 2014
  14. ^ "East Midlands Today on Tour: Abbey Park, Leicester - August 9th", BBC, August 2005. Retrieved 29 June 2014
  15. ^ University of Leicester Archaeological Services. "Leicester Abbey training excavation". Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  16. ^ "TAKEOVER RADIO 103.2 - Where We are Based", Takeover Radio. Retrieved 29 June 2014

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°38′49″N 1°08′10″W / 52.647°N 1.136°W / 52.647; -1.136