Wicksteed Park enters administration after 99 years


Sway Rider attraction at Wicksteed Park in Kettering
Image caption Wicksteed Park in Kettering claims to be the oldest theme park on the UK mainland

A 99-year-old theme park has gone into administration due to “months of uncertainty and difficulty” from the coronavirus pandemic.

Wicksteed Park in Kettering, Northamptonshire, was opened by Charles Wicksteed in 1921.

It is owned by Wicksteed Charitable Trust, which has backed the formation of a new smaller company with the aim of raising funds to re-open the park.

Oliver Wicksteed, chairman of the trust, said: “We are all devastated.”

The move into administration has resulted in the loss of 48 permanent staff and 67 part-time and other jobs.

The charitable trust said it would try to keep the free playgrounds and parkland open and the pavilion for forthcoming bookings, when government guidelines allow indoor events.

It is hoped the new “streamlined” company will keep the park operating until spring next year, when it aims to re-open for its centenary.

Image copyright Wicksteed Park
Image caption The pavilion at Wicksteed Park was restored last year

Mr Wicksteed, who is the grandson of Charles Wicksteed, said he “fully appreciates the effect this decision will have on staff members who have already been through months of uncertainty and difficulty”.

He said: “We are working hard to ensure they have access to the support and advice they need.

“The reality is that without urgent significant support Wicksteed Park will not survive as we know it.”

Image caption The log flume which opened in 1926 is the oldest of its kind in the UK

Mr Wicksteed said the cost of business was “crippling” and if the park opened fully next month the costs of social distancing measures and a reduced capacity “would have meant it was unlikely to be financially viable”.

He added that, apart from the furlough scheme, “there has been no meaningful government support for charities such as ours”.

Pop star-turned-local vicar Richard Coles tweeted to say it was a “sad day” as Wicksteed had been “the pleasure dome of my childhood”.