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Lathams embarks on next chapter of Wicksteed Park's renaissance

With a fascinating and innovative history, Wicksteed Park in Kettering is showing no sign of slowing down now.

Close to celebrating its 100th year, the Park is seeing a renaissance within the Grade II Listed 147-acre parkland, thanks to strong stakeholder support, funding grants and the help of Lathams Architects.

To date (Jan 2020), Lathams have been responsible for multiple projects around the Park and have been commissioned for future works starting this year. Completed works include the restoration of several pioneering pre-fabricated concrete cottages, a new-build Learning Space (nominated for an AJ Award) and the renovation of the 1921 Edwardian Pavilion.

Chris Twomey, Director at Lathams, had this to say about the projects:

“Wicksteed Park has a rich history of design and innovation which needs to be celebrated. We have felt very privileged to complete multiple design services across the site to restore and re-purpose historic structures and create new and complementary buildings.”

Pioneering Beginnings

Engineer and innovator Charles Wicksteed purchased the land in 1913 with an aim to build a model village. However, following World War One and housing reforms, Charles looked to develop a park for people to spend their leisure time. During this time, he set up a charitable trust and built several prefabricated concrete houses for the workers of the park. This pioneering vision was a very early example of mass-produced housing as a concept.

Lathams were responsible for the comprehensive refurbishment and re-purposing of these worker’s cottages as part of the wider Historic Heart scheme. Their restoration celebrates the innovative design, such as exposing the pre-cast concrete structure as a feature inside one of the former cottages (now home to the Park’s unique archive). Another has been sensitively re-purposed as an Ice Cream Parlour, harking back to the golden era of home-made Wicksteed Ice Cream, which many visitors still remember to this day.

Learning Space

Part of the Historic Heart scheme involved the demolition of a mid C20 garage building immediately adjacent to the restored workers’ cottages. A new Learning Space was constructed in its place with the form of the building designed to reference the surrounding cottages, although it stands apart with its ‘top to toe’ covering of natural slate. The space includes a freestanding ‘pod’ which contains a kitchenette, vital storage space, a WC & a hidden sink for messy art activities. This clever arrangement de-clutters the space creating a large flexible area that can also expand outside via a set of bi-folding doors, with a level threshold ensuring easy access for all.

The Learning Space was nominated for a 2019 Architect’s Journal Award for ‘Project of the Year (under £250k). Oliver Wicksteed, Chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, said:

“I’m delighted that the architects who worked on our superb new Learning Space were shortlisted in the prestigious national AJ Architecture Awards. Lathams did an amazing job and to get to the final was a brilliant achievement.”

The Pavilion

At the heart of Wicksteed Park is the Edwardian Pavilion, built when the park was founded in 1921. The Historic Heart scheme saw the entire exterior and ground floor of the Pavilion renovated to a high standard. This rejuvenation was overseen by Lathams and was completed in 2019 to great acclaim from the local community.

Now operating as the Park’s Visitor Centre and ticketing hub, the Pavilion renovation works are due to continue later this year thanks to a £1.78m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The new works, again led by Lathams, will see the ‘Captain’s Lounge’ and veranda on the upper floors renovated as part of the Wicksteed @Play scheme.

The Modern Playground

Public parks were once a very formal place for families to socialise, but they did not always cater for the younger generation who wanted to play. Charles Wicksteed wanted to change this and let children be children. Thanks to Charles’ engineering background, he designed multiple playground rides and amusements such as slides and swings as we know them today, using Wicksteed Park to showcase his inventions.

Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Wicksteed Park will now see the creation of the ‘heritage play area’. One former attraction has already been reinstated, the Witch’s Hat, a favourite amongst locals. The amusement was once found across the country but gradually disappeared due to stringent health and safety rules. Now the new, improved Witch’s Hat has returned to Wicksteed for the first time in 30 years.

As well as involvement with the ‘heritage play area’, Lathams are also responsible for the restoration of the Rose Garden and Fountain Lawn. The works are due to commence on site later this year (2020).

Picture: Learning centre (left) re-purposed cottage, now ice cream parlour (right)


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