Wicksteed Park

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Wicksteed Park
Merlin (geograph 3513474).jpg
Locomotive "Merlin" hauling a passenger train on the Wicksteed Park Railway
SloganThe Place Where Fun Was Invented
LocationKettering, Northamptonshire, England
OwnerWicksteed Charitable Trust
Roller coasters3
Water rides4

Wicksteed Park is an amusement park in Kettering, Northamptonshire, England. The park opened in 1921. It is located 2 miles (3.2 km) from the A14 and is signposted from the M1 & A1 and located near the Midland Main Line between London and Sheffield.



The Park was founded by Charles Wicksteed, the son of a Unitarian minister of the same name and his wife Jane Lupton. The couple met when Charles Senior arrived in Leeds in 1835 to lead Mill Hill Chapel, at the heart of that industrial city, and two years later they married. The Lupton family was long-established there, and the Wicksteeds' children were born into a prosperous, socially active, politically involved dynasty, including educationalists, philanthropists, factory owners, and businessmen. In 1841 Charles Senior's sister Elizabeth married Jane's brother Arthur (c1817-1881), also a Unitarian minister; Uncle Arthur was, according to a family history, "The Achilles of the Leeds Complete Suffrage Association"[1]- in other words, a tragic champion of the fight for universal suffrage.

Charles Junior was one of twenty one children, including Janet, who wrote, as Mrs Lewis, a memoir including her parents; Philip (Henry), the economist and Unitarian theologian; and (Joseph) Hartley, president of the Institute of Mechanical Engineers[2] They had the maverick MP and mining engineer Arnold Lupton as their first cousin. One of their nieces was Mary Cicely Wicksteed, who married the prominent Australian surgeon Sir Hibbert Alan Stephen Newton (1887-1949)[3]

Charles Junior set up Charles Wicksteed & Co. Ltd in 1876, based in Digby Street in Kettering, which produced items such as the first hydraulic hacksaw, the original automatic gearbox, sawing machinery, wooden toys and power drills. In 1913 he purchased a tract of Northamptonshire meadowland nearby with the intention of developing a model village. He wanted to create an open space and safe parkland for local families.

To celebrate the end of the First World War, his factory purportedly removed a number of central heating pipes from its premises and used them to build swings for children, creating the first commercial playground.[4] The success of the initiative eventually led to the founding of Wicksteed Playscapes, the world's first playground manufacturing company, which is still operating. [5] His main bequest was Wicksteed Park.[6]


The Park's fame spread far and wide and special trains and charabancs brought visitors from an ever-widening area. Wicksteed Park was the second leisure park in the UK and has been copied many times since. Upon the death of Charles Wicksteed, the board of trustees was determined to continue his work.

Open all year round, the children's playground is the largest free facility of its kind in Europe.[7]

Of historical interest is the Water Chute, which was built in 1926. Having undergone major renovation (in 2002), it is the oldest working ride in the UK.[8] The Park has a narrow gauge railway which runs around the lake.[9]

The park is owned by the Wicksteed Trust, a registered charity set up by Charles Wicksteed in 1916 and run by Wicksteed Park Ltd, a company wholly owned by the Trust.


The attractions at Wicksteed Park are divided into 4 themed areas:

1) Playground - Immediately on entering the park, there is a free playground.

2) Fairground - Rides for children up to 13/14; also in this area is the Fun Palace Arcade.

3) Lakeside - Predominantly features rides themed around water, such as the rowing boats. It is also home to the 'Waterchute' and the monorail.

Arena area

4) Arena - Contains many of the park's larger rides, like the Revolving Paratrooper, Ladybird Coaster, Roller Coaster and a log flume called 'Rocky River Falls'.

In order to enjoy the attractions, visitors can purchase either tickets or an all day, unlimited ride wristband. There is also an aviary, sand pit and boating on the lake to complement the other attractions. The 30-acre (12 ha) lake is populated by swans, geese, ducks and peacocks. Caravan and camping facilities are also offered on 16-acre (6.5 ha) of land right in the heart of the park.

The park has had its own mascot since March 2000 called Wicky Bear. It also has three other characters - Kerry the Koala, Charlie the Dog and Pong the Panda. The four animals can regularly be spotted walking around the park and greeting guests. Throughout the UK summer holidays when the rides and attractions are in full operation, there is usually a 'Wicky Bear Show' on the park's Outdoor Stage where the four characters can be seen performing together.

The park holds an annual Guy Fawkes Night display.[10]

List of rides[edit]

THE FAIRGROUND - Sway Rider, Laser Xtreme, Cups and Saucers, Carousel, Mini-Jets, Crazy Golf, Putting Green, Dodgems, Astroglide, Rockin'Tug, Lighthouse, Wickey's Inflatable, Roundabout, Clarence The Coaster, Rush.

THE ARENA - The Roller Coaster, Rocky River Falls, Ladybird Coaster, Racing Cars, Honey Pot Bears, Paratrooper.

THE LAKESIDE - The Waterchute, Large & Small Lake Boats, The Monorail, Mr Wicksteed's Veteran Cars.

Wicksteed Park Railway[edit]

Locomotive "Cheyenne" at Wicksteed Park Railway in 1976

The 2 ft (610 mm) narrow gauge[11] Wicksteed Park Railway is one of the most iconic features of the park today.[9] Over 15 million people have taken to its rails since it first opened in 1931.[9] It was the last feature of the park to be added during the lifetime of the parks founder Charles Wicksteed and is supported by the Friends of the Wicksteed Park Railway.[9]

Meerkat Burrows[edit]

Wicksteed Park is now home to Meerkats.


Wicksteed Park has now got a new farmyard with different animals including Goats, Different types of Sheep including the Jacob's sheep, Shetland Pony and Alpacas

Educational visits[edit]

Wicksteed Park offers various Programmes of Study based on Key Stages 1–4. A Nature Trail is also offered, a little over two kilometres in length and featuring many 'activity' points.


  1. ^ Lupton, C.A. , The Lupton Family in Leeds, Wm. Harrison and Son 1965, page 55
  2. ^ [Insititute of Mechanical Engineers heritage site. Biography of HartleyWicksteed http://heritage.imeche.org/Biographies/HartleyWicksteed]
  3. ^ [ Newton, Sir Hibbert Alan Stephen (1887–1949) by Benjamin K. Rank. Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 11, (MUP), 1988 http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/newton-sir-hibbert-alan-stephen-7834]
  4. ^ http://www.wicksteed.co.uk/is-this-the-oldest-swing-in-the-world-n196.html
  5. ^ http://www.wicksteed.co.uk
  6. ^ [Wicksteed Park. About Charles Wicksteed. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 3 December 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2013.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)]
  7. ^ The Free Playground
  8. ^ The Lakeside - Wicksteed Waterchute
  9. ^ a b c d Wicksteed Park Railway
  10. ^ "Thousands to be wowed by display". Northants Evening Telegraph. 13 September 2011. Retrieved 19 September 2011. [...] at Wicksteed Park’s annual bonfire night extravaganza.
  11. ^ A History of the Wicksteed Park Railway - Introduction

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°23′06″N 0°42′11″W / 52.385°N 0.703°W / 52.385; -0.703