Since its beginnings in the 1930’s Hollycroft park has been a favourite to Hinckley’s residents and still provides events as it has done for many decades.
Although the parkland was only brought in 1930, archaeological finds in the vicinity of the park suggest human habitation from around 5000 years ago (Flint and animal bones can now be displayed in Hinckley and district museum).
Following these early beginnings the land eventually became farmland and ended up in the ownership of the Thomas Atkins trust, it was from this trust that the council purchased the land and turned it into the park we know today.
In 1930, the Hinckley Urban District Council purchased a piece of land from the Thomas Atkins Trust. The surveyor of the Council was instructed by the Estates and Parks Committee to produce plans for a public park to cater for the recreational and sporting needs of the people of Hinckley.
The architect for the park was Thomas F.Shute who designed both holly Croft Park and the rock gardens. Stephanie Charlesworth, his granddaughter, still lives in Hinckley today.
The design for Hollycroft Park was based on the happy Valley Park in North Wales, which was created in the late 19th Century, and listed as a historic garden of excellence in the 1930s. The name Hollycroft comes from the old English, “Hollow Craeft”, the name of the field at the bottom of the hill (Craeft meaning a ‘trade’ or ‘handicraft’). This could be linked to the reed beds in this field used for thatching buildings in Hinckley.
Work started on Hollycroft Park in 1933 and the main features included an arena area and bandstand, two hard tennis courts, a bowling green with pavilion and a four acre pitch and putt golf course. Originally, there were greenhouses in the park, the first of which was donated by Mrs Hampson of Chesterfield House.
Most of the works were completed in 1935 and the park was opened as part of the Silver Jubilee Celebrations of King
George V and Queen Mary. Mr A. S. Atkins who had been the Town Clerk for thirty-five years performed the opening ceremony. He was given a silver key to open the gates at the Shakespeare Drive and the crowd surged forward to gain entry.
A newspaper article in the Hinckley times reads:
“The jubilee coincided with the opening of Hollycroft Park which, after months of preparation, has been beautifully laid out as an open space, complete with water feature, shrubberies, winding pathways, large bandstand and auditorium.
The opening ceremony was performed in the presence of another large crowd, by Mr A. S Atkins, clerk of the urban district council, who was supported by Mr A. J Pickering (chairman of the council), Mrs Pickering, Mrs A. S Atkins, and the members and officials of the Urban District Council. Mrs Pickering and Mrs. Atkins were handed magnificent Jubilee bouquets.
In his introductory remarks Mr. Pickering said he was sure they would all agree that no more fitting occasion could be found on which to open a public park and dedicate it for the use of the public for all time than the Jubilee day of the King and Queen. It was not proposed to call it Jubilee Park, but he was sure it would remain in the memory of all as being associated with that great and auspicious occasion.”
During the war
When the war started in 1939 some of the Gardeners left for war leaving the flowerbeds to be used as vegetable growing beds for food, the conservatory growing tomatoes and lettuces. Much of the produce was used by the British restaurant in Wood Street to provide low cost meals for factory workers.
Towards the end of the war concerts were started in the park again. When the war ended the council began the expansion of all the parks and open spaces under
their control. To cope with the extra maintenance required a parks department was set up
Post war to present
Over the next few years more glasshouses were built at Hollycroft Park to produce bedding and decorative plants. The council had some success in horticultural (gardening) shows in the Midlands. However, in 1980 the compulsory competitive tendering act came into force which meant that the council could no longer grow its own plants. As a result the greenhouses were no longer needed and were later demolished. This was the fate of many local authority greenhouses at this time.
The original layout of the park has been retained in the main, although some changes have taken place to meet changing public needs. The majority of the ponds were filled in and some of the flowerbeds have been grassed over. However, there is still an abundance of shrubberies and formal beds. A series of band concerts continue to take throughout the summer months, together with a number of other park events.
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In 2000 to celebrate the Millennium, two features were added to the park, the Millennium Sundial at the main entrance to the park at Shakespeare Road, and the Labyrinth in the picnic area near the entrance at Hollycroft. The Friends of Hollycroft Park group was also established in 2000 and the group has gone from strength to strength, and are now responsible for the majority of the events that take place in the park. Finally, In 2007 they received a National Lottery Breathing Spaces grant award to create a new wildlife area.