Recently rediscovered by Mr Lewin of Syston, these images show the coin his Grandmother, Mrs Edwards, also of Syston, gained when she was present at the official opening of Abbey Park, Leicester on Whit-Monday 29th May 1882 by the Prince and Princess of Wales. Mrs Edwards family owned a grocery shop in Syston during the 1930’s on the site which is now Josiah Hincks solicitors. There is a hole in the coin which originally had a ribbon threaded through it.
The Princess of Wales planted a tree which is still in the park some 133 years later. There was also a programme available, one is held by Leicester Mercury and featured in an article in January 2015.
Abbey park was created in an area that had previously been described as ‘marshy ground in a poor district’ at a cost of over £40,000. The works included the widening and deepening of the river over a length of around a mile, with the excavated earth used to create mounds within the park, as well as the construction of stone weirs and locks. Three new bridges were constructed crossing the river. An artificial lake was created and over 33,000 trees planted. Excavations as part of the work discovered remains of animals including elephants and rhinoceros. The park was extended in 1932.
Today the park has an area of 57 acres, and contains the site of the 12th century Leicester Abbey, which is marked out with low stone walls, and the ruins of Cavendish House (built in the 17th century by William Cavendish, 1st Earl of Devonshire using stone from the abbey). The house was used by Charles I after the siege of Leicester during the English civil war in 1645; after he left, his soldiers set fire to it leaving the house gutted. The charred stone window frame is still visible today. The abbey ruins contain a memorial to Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, who was buried in the grounds. He died while en route from York to London on 29th November 1530; a statue of him stands next to the Park’s cafe. Two lodges designed by architect Mr. J. Tait were built at the Abbey Road entrance to the park.
The park was the site of an annual flower show dating back to the 19th century, which included a swimming gala and evolved into the Abbey Park Show in the 1940s, with the addition a range of entertainment and displays. It continued until 1995, when it was abolished due to falling attendances and rising costs. It was also the site of the Pageant of Leicester, held in 1932. The Abbey Park Festival was an annual music festival which was held for over twenty years from 1981.
It has formal gardens, a sensory garden, a boating lake, a miniature railway, cafe, orienteering courses, pets corner, tennis courts, a bowling green, lavender maze, formally planted flower displays and Ping! tables.
Thank you to Mr and Mrs Lewin for allowing us to photograph the coin and include this history of Abbey Park and its official opening.