Spinney Hill Park, Leicester, England
Record Id: 4722
Site is open to the public. Opening may be limited, please check Visitor Information for any restrictions.
Brief description of site
Spinney Hill Park is an inner city, late-Victorian park to the south-east of the city centre. The park is well-used, not only for play, sports, and games, but also for walking, socialising, general recreation and as an access route. Regular cultural events are held in the park including a funfair and festivals. There is an active park users' group.
Brief history of site
The park was opened in 1886. Additions to the park, including the introduction of different games areas, were made over the years, including during its centenary year. In 1982 the park became part of Spinney Hill Conservation Area and in 2002 the park lodge was listed. Some park land was lost to housing in 1892. Further land was lost to an adventure playground (possibly in the 1970s) and for a police station (2005). During 2007-9 the council consulted over proposals for Heritage Lottery funding for regeneration of the park.
Address: East Park Road, Spinney Hill, Leicester, LE5 5FD
Leicester; Spinney Hills
Historical County: Leicestershire
|OS Landranger Map Sheet Number:||140||Grid Ref:||SK605043|
The park is 3 kilometres south-east of Leicester city centre. There are entrances on all surrounding streets: Mere Road, St Saviours Road, East Park Road and Park Vale Road. Buses from the city centre and railway station serve East Park Road. Contact Traveline Tel. 08706082608. The park is twenty minutes walk from the railway station.
Opening contact details:
This is a municipal site for general public use.
The site has no public car park. There are public toilets adjacent to the northern park entry on East Park Road.
There are tarmac paths, but the hilly site may make wheelchair access difficult.
Form of site: public park
Purpose of site: urban park
Context or principal building: parks, gardens and urban spaces
Site Style : informal
Site first created: 1885 to 1886
Main period of development: Late 19th century
Site Size (Hectares): 20
Spinney Hill Park is an inner city, late Victorian park to the south-east of the centre, surrounded by densely packed terraced housing with a diverse population. Essentially the park retains its informal Victorian layout. Hedges and bow top iron fencing encircle the perimeter. There are nine access points, of which two retain large ornamental wrought iron carriage gates and piers.
The site slopes steeply down some twenty metres from the west to east. From the higher western side of the park, which is 83.3 metres above sea level, there are good views towards Rowlatts Hill and Evington. Evington Brook flows through the flatter eastern side of the park entering under a sandstone and granite bridge.
There are many mature trees, some pre-dating the park. Some trees are grouped in spinneys, others line the winding tarmac paths and brook. There are shrubberies to the north of the site.
The sport and play facilities include two children's play areas, a bowling green, football and cricket pitches, and multi-sports courts. Buildings include a park lodge, bowling pavilion, central changing/sports pavilion and drinking fountain (disused), and, just outside the park perimeter a toilet block. There are interpretation boards, seating, litter bins and dog bins.
The park is well-used not only for play, sports, and games, but also for walking, socialising, general recreation and as an access route. Regular cultural events are held in the park including a funfair and festivals. There is an active park users' group. In the north-west there is an adventure playground on park land leased to a charity. To the north-east is a police station and its car park on park land leased to the police.
Owner: Leicester City Council
New Walk Centre, Welford Place
Conservation Area Reference Spinney Hill Park Conservation Area
Site of Local Importance for Nature Conservation Reference BES 58 and BES 59
The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Grade Grade II Reference Lodge
Lodge Created 1888
A small irregular dwelling in the Domestic Revival style with fenced garden. The steeply-pitched roof is clad with slate. There are tall red brick chimney stacks. The walls are of red brick with some tile hanging and casement windows. A catslide roof supported on turned timber posts shelters the porch. The English Heritage description states that this is 'a finely detailed and little altered lodge, the quality of the design reflecting Leicester's pride in the creation of this park.'
Designation status: The National Heritage List for England: Listed Building Grade Grade II Reference SK 60510453 718/0/ 10184
On 17th March 1885 the town corporation Sanitary Committee reported that they sought land for a new recreation ground. They were concerned about the inadequacy of public open space to the east of the town where building development was rapidly proceeding. Moreover, the nearby Spinney Hills Recreation Ground, to the east of Hartington Road, was of inadequate size and the tenancy insecure.
The site chosen was grazing land subdivided into fields with spinneys of trees alongside Mere Road and also alongside what was later to become Park Vale Road (O/S maps xxx1.11 & xxx1.15, 1885, 25" to 1 mile). The land belonged to the Spinney Hills Estate and was owned by C.S. Burnaby Esq. (Supplement, 1886). By 30 March 1886 the committee had purchased the grazing land (Supplement, 1886). Conditions attached to the purchase required that no land be sold for fifteen years and that the land should never be turned into building plots or worked for minerals. The £18,000 purchase price was substantially less than the £36,000 asked for the recreation ground land (Supplement 1886; Storey, 1895, 129-130; Wilshere, 1986, 2).
Mr John Burn laid out the park in 1886 with 'natural' style planting. He retained existing trees and created a woodland walk, winding paths and a carriage drive from Mere Road. He straightened the Evington or Willow Brook to create a more gentle curve and created small rocky weirs and cascades. He built two bridges which were linked by an oval gravel walk (Leicester Advertiser, 1886). He included a bandstand, 'gymnasia', wrought iron swings, seesaws, 'giant strides', parallel bars, horizontal ladders, plus an area for cricket. Mr J. Jordan, the Borough Surveyor, dealt with the sewerage, drainage, pathways and fencing for the new park. Amongst items acquired for the opening were many shrubs and trees from Cropston Waterworks and Abbey Park (Wilshere, 1986, 2-3).
The mayor's wife, Mrs Israel Hart, officially opened the park at 1pm on Tuesday 24 August 1886, although the park was not fully complete (Supplement 1886). There were a number of speeches followed by a presentation by the Chair of the Sanitary Committee, Thomas Windley. Four hundred guests attended a luncheon at 2pm. Surrounding streets were hung with flags, bells were rung from St Saviours church, bands played and there were fireworks in the evening (Wilshere, 1986, 3).
The polished granite fountain was erected in April 1887, gifted by Councillor Samuel Mather, a local marketplace pork and cheese merchant (Wilshere, 1986, 5).
In 1888 a Refreshment Pavilion and Park Keeper's Lodge were constructed to the designs of Leicester architect, Stockdale Harrison, at a cost of £609 19s and £319 18s 9d respectively (Wilshere, 1986, 5). A sandstone and granite bridge was also built (Leicester City Council, 2004, 9).
In 1892 the corporation gave up a 15 foot wide strip of the southern boundary of the park for the construction of Park Vale Road. House building was undertaken in surrounding streets between 1890 and the 1920s, the houses facing the park being larger and with small front gardens (Wilshere, 1986, 3). During 1894-5 a Bowling Pavilion was constructed (Wilshere, 1986, 5). The Spinney Hill Bowling Club had been founded in 1892.
In 1914 and 1923 respectively the bandstand and the bowling green pavilion were replaced. Maps of 1930 show a new shelter towards the top of the park. Between 1938 and 1939 a sports pavilion was built (Wilshere, 1986, 5). During the 20th century East Midlands Electricity Board constructed three electricity sub stations.
In 1954, owing to the flooding of the bowling green after heavy rain, its turf banks were rebuilt and water coming down the hillside was diverted and drained (Wilshere, 1986, 7). The Ordnance Survey map of 1955 shows a new shelter in the centre towards the lower end of the park and three sets of tennis courts between the lodge and the bowling green.
In 1956 for the first time the park was the venue for the Louie Knight Cup. This cricket cup was presented by the head gardener. Spinney Hill Park was the only city park to have a putting green until 1965, but by the 1970s this was converted to crazy golf (Wilshere, 1986,6).
There are records from 1955 of the park suffering vandalism. Increased hedging was introduced alongside the stream to deter after-hours intruders and in 1958 the original refreshment pavilion (by then disused) was fenced to prevent wilful damage. It was burnt down in the 1970s (Wilshere, 1986, 6).
According to Wilshere, in 1965 the park had one bowling green, one hockey and four cricket pitches, one grass and one hard tennis court. In 1968 this provision had changed to six bowling rinks (the bowls pavilion had been extended in 1963), three cricket pitches, nine grass and four hard tennis courts. Wilshere further reports that by 1985 there were adventure playgrounds, large scale chess and draughts areas, and four bitumen tennis courts were floodlit as were two netball courts. (Wilshere, 1986, 6).
On 28 October 1982, after a request from the Leicester Group of the Victorian Society, the city council designated the park and the neighbouring streets Spinney Hill Conservation Area.
In its centenary year, 1986, new features were introduced by the council including a play area, picnic site, a new tea kiosk and probably the toilet block on the perimeter. The sports pavilion was renovated. The City Wildlife Project introduced nature areas including a woodland area with oak, field maple, and silver birch trees along East Park Road (an older row of Lombardy poplars had become dangerous and were felled). Alders and willows were also planted alongside the brook. In the north-east corner, adjacent to the brook, a pond was established with marginal plants and a meadow (Wilshere, 1986, 6). A wooden owl sculpture was installed. Centenary celebrations were held over the weekend of 23 and 24 August 1986. This consisted of a multi-cultural festival with a visit from the Lord Mayor, Councillor St John Phipps (Wilshere, 1986).
In 2002, after a request by the Leicester Group of the Victorian Society, the park lodge was listed Grade II.
In 2001 the city council planning committee controversially approved the building of a police station on flat land within the park boundary along East Park Road. After vociferous campaigning recorded in the local newspaper, The Leicester Mercury, and referral of the scheme to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, the size and location of the police station were altered. Although initially the council proposed to sell park land, it was eventually leased for the police station (Leicester Mercury, 2004, 4). The police station was opened in September 2005.
Between 2007 and 2009 the council consulted with park users and nearby inhabitants over a proposed £2 million bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to renovate the park.
24/08/1886: The opening of the park was accompanied by events lasting from 1pm until the evening.
24/08/1886: The mayoress officially opened Spinney Hill Park.
01/04/1887 to 30/04/1887: A drinking fountain was erected.
1890 to 1920: Surrounding terraced houses were designed and built to complement the park and attract wealthier occupants.
1892: The corporation gave up a fifteen foot wide strip of the park on the south for the construction of Park Vale Road.
1892: The Spinney Hill Bowling Club was established. It still exists in 2008.
1894 to 1895: A bowling pavilion was constructed.
1914: The bandstand was replaced.
1923: The bowling pavilion was replaced.
1938 to 1939: A sports pavilion was erected.
1954: A drainage scheme was introduced to prevent flooding of the bowling green.
1956: The park was the venue for the Louie Knight (cricket) Cup for the first time, the cup being presented by the head gardener.
28/10/1982: The city council designated the park and neighbouring streets Spinney Hill Conservation Area.
1986: For its centenary the city council introduced new features.
23/08/1986 to 24/08/1986: Centenary events were held which included a multi-cultural festival.
2002: The park lodge was listed Grade II.
2005: A police station was built on park land leased to the police.
2007 to 2009: Leicester City Council consulted with local residents and park users prior to seeking funding from the Heritage Lottery and the government's Single Regeneration budget to regenerate the park.
People associated with this site
Designer: Mr. John Burn (Known to have been active to 1886)
Architect: Mr. Stockdale Harrison (born 1846 died 10/11/1914)
Land Agent: Sir John F.L. Rolleston, M.P. (born 1848 died 1919)
Benefactor: Mr Thomas Windley (born 24/05/1835 died 01/10/1932)
Feature created: 1888
Creator: Mr. Stockdale Harrison (born 1846 died 10/11/1914)
Designed in the Domestic Revival style. In 1958, it was fenced off, owing to vandalism. It was burned down in the 1970s.
Feature created: 1888
Bridge built of sandstone and granite. Engraved with the Corporation cinquefoil and wyvern motifs.
bowling green pavilion
Feature created: 1923
Brick and timber walls, and a pitched roof with gable end. Decorative Tudor-style half-timber work. (This replaced an earlier pavilion). Extended in 1963.
Feature created: Before 1955
Park shelter (no longer extant).
Feature created: 1938 to 1939
Brick-built sports pavilion/changing rooms with sheltered seating areas at each side. In the late-20th century, the seating areas were bricked in.
Feature created: 1930 to 1939
Three simple brick electricity sub-stations.
Feature created: 1986
Wooden owl sculpture, located near the nature area and constructed from a tree trunk.
Feature created: 2005
Red and yellow brick police station with associated car park.
Feature created: 1886
The bandstand is no longer extant.
Feature created: 1887
Polished pink and grey granite fountain. High Victorian gothic style. Now disused and damaged.
Organisations associated with this site
Leicestershire & Rutland Gardens Trust CGT Reference 003/08/08
Historic England Role: Designating Authority
Sources of information
Wilshere, J., 1886-1986: The History of Spinney Hill Park (Leicester: Leicester Research Department of Chamberlain Music and Books, 1986)
Biodiversity in Leicester - Site Alert Map 2000 (Leicester City Council 2000)
Storey, J. Historical Sketch of Some of the Principal Works and Undertakings of the County and Borough of Leicester (Leicester: W H Lead, 1895)
Leicester City Council, Management Plan for Spinney Hill Park (Leicester: Leicester City Council, 2004)
'Police station plan for city park given the go-ahead', Leicester Mercury, 3 February 2004, p. 4
'Obituary for Stockdale Harrison'
Spinney Hill Conservation Area Character Statement (Leicester City Council, 2002)
Gill, Richard The Book of Leicester (Buckingham: Barracuda Books Ltd, 1985)
'The New Park at Leicester', Leicester Advertiser, 24 August 1886
'The Spinney Hill Park', The Leicester Daily Post, 25 August 1886
'The Spinney Hill Park, Formal Opening by the Mayor and Mayoress' Supplement to the Leicester Chronicle and Leicester Mercury, 28 August 1886
Contributor or Recorder Leicestershire and Rutland Gardens Trust