• The old Pavilion sustained bomb damage in WWII leading to its demolition in 1940
  • Former mayor Sir Jonathan North donated the park's ornate iron gates in memory of his wife, Kate North
  • The park’s Arch of Remembrance was designed by renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens who also created the Cenotaph in Whitehall, London

The former horse racecourse

Victoria Park has formed a popular part of Leicester’s community and social landscape since its inception during the Victorian period. Originally part of the common land known as South Fields, the park was used as a racecourse from 1806 to 1883 and featured an impressive purpose-built grandstand that would later become the Pavilion. When the racecourse was moved to its current position in Oadby, Victoria Park became a public park. It then used year round for a variety of sporting and recreational activities including hosting several ‘Leicester Fosse’ football matches during the late 19th century; Leicester Fosse went on to be renamed Leicester City Football Club. The park was also home to one of the earliest roller skating rinks in the country.

A Horse Race in Victoria Park by EB Herbert, 1874. Oil on canvas

Sir Edwin Lutyens

The park boasts two impressive early 20th century architectural features; the Arch of Remembrance and the park gates, both designed by the renowned architect Sir Edwin Lutyens. The striking Arch of Remembrance was built as a memorial to those who died during the Great War and was orientated to view the sunrise between the arches on the 11th November each year. The cost of the Arch was £27,000, of which £10,000 was provided by the people of Leicester. The Arch was officially unveiled by two war widows on July 3rd 1925 in a large and well attended ceremony.

The wrought-iron park gates at the base of peace walk and by London road were presented to the city in 1931 by Sir Jonathan North in memory of his wife, Kate, who had been a prominent figure in Leicester’s voluntary war effort. North was a former shoe and boot trade businessman who had become the Mayor of Leicester during the war and was knighted by King George V in 1919 for his outstanding services to the city. The two lodges were also erected with the gates in order to house the park keepers at a rate of 7s per week in rent.

The Arch of Remembrance in 2015

Rocket launchers and a lost Pavilion

During the Second World War, Victoria Park was transformed into allotments, with the railings taken for munitions as well as three tiers of rocket launchers positioned and manned by the Regular Army and the Home Guard. A searchlight was situated where the tennis courts are now as well as a barrage balloon and anti-parachute poles designed to stop German pilots from being able to land on the park. In 1940 a German Heinkel bomber dropped a land mine on the north-eastern corner of the park creating a 30 foot crater and damaging the corner of the pavilion, leading to its demolition. Following the Dunkirk landing in 1944, Leicester was used as a gathering place for groups of wounded soldiers who were brought to Victoria Park and attended to by nurses.

Parts of Victoria Park were used as allotments during and after the Second World War. Photo, 1949

A place for entertainment

Today Victoria Park is one of Leicester’s busiest parks – it plays host to a number of annual events such as the Caribbean Carnival and Remembrance Sunday, with hundreds of thousands of people attending across the year. The park has a number of excellent facilities including floodlit tennis courts, ball courts, skate park and basketball court, two children’s play areas, toilet facilities and parking for events at De Montfort Hall and general use. As it was from its earliest beginnings, Victoria Park remains a place of leisure and recreation for everyone.

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Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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