Safeguarding the future of historic theme park

Wicksteed Park in Kettering, Northamptonshire has been at the heart of its community for almost a century.

During that time, millions of people locally and from across the UK have visited the park and enjoyed its facilities and rides. For the people of Kettering the historic park, which is the oldest theme park on the UK mainland, has been part of their daily lives for as long as the residents of the town can remember.

Wicksteed Park was opened by Charles Wicksteed in 1921. The Parkland itself is owned by the Wicksteed Charitable Trust, while the rides and attractions and the events staged at the Park’s pavilion were run through a wholly owned but separate trading entity, Wicksteed Park Limited.

The Covid-19 pandemic left the park closed for several months with the result that there has been little or no revenue for Wicksteed Park Limited over the last three months. Faced with continued uncertainty in the hospitality and leisure industry, the Directors of the company were left with little option but to call in administrators with a view to formulating a plan to restructure the business and save Wicksteed Park’s future.

Wicksteed Charitable Trust, through its chairman Oliver Wicksteed and supported by Lee Scragg worked in partnership with Tollers solicitors, led by Managing Partner and insolvency expert Duncan Nicholson to put in place a restructuring plan designed to safeguard this historic and important theme park from disappearing from the landscape altogether.

Working with Joint Administrator Eddie Williams and the restructuring team from Grant Thornton, the Trust and the Tollers teams were able to agree a revised structure for a new company that, with support from the Trust and the local community, will enable the Park to survive through to 2021 by which time the threat of Coronavirus may have dissipated sufficiently to enable the Park and its attractions to fully open its gates to the public once more.

At the heart of the deal was the Trust’s determination to ensure that while the attractions remain closed, there was sufficient funding available to enable the parkland and pavilion to stay open so that the local community can still visit and enjoy the surroundings. In addition there was a pledge to honour any bookings for events and shows in the park which customers will be able to reschedule for a future date as soon as government guidelines allow for it.

Oliver Wicksteed, chairman of the Wicksteed Charitable Trust has spoken of his devastation of what has happened as a result of Covid-19. The forced closure of the park giving rise to administration and the effect on staff, families and visitors was at the forefront of Mr Wicksteed’s mind.

Unfortunately, the financial effects of Covid-19 ultimately left the Trust with no choice however the work undertaken by the Trust, Tollers, Grant Thornton and their legal advisors is such that all are optimistic that the park and its attractions will survive so that once government restrictions are lifted, the people of Kettering and beyond will be able to enjoy Wicksteed’s centenary year in 2021.

Duncan Nicholson of Tollers commented, Wicksteed Park is a historic and vital leisure facility for the people of Kettering, Northamptonshire and the whole of the UK. It is both historic and unique. While Covid-19 created a perfect storm resulting in the devastating news that administration had resulted, at Tollers we are delighted that we have been able to work with the Wicksteed Charitable Trust and the Administrators in order preserve the facility in the short term through a restructure with the intention to safeguard Wicksteed Park and its attractions for the long term benefit of the community.


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