Abbey Park, located on Abbey Park Road, Leicester, LE4 5AQ, Leicestershire, United Kingdom, may be one of the best places to go if you want to learn more about the history of Leicestershire.
There are many benefits that come from spending some time at local parks in your area. Donated to Leicester City Council by the Earl of Dysart, Abbey Park is more than a beautiful place to relax and discover yourself.
The land had been privately owned since 1319 and once housed a Dominican priory and Abbey of St Mary de Pre (which translates as “the church dedicated to Saint Mary on the pre-hills”). After Henry VIII dissolved it, the buildings were used as a town hall, prison or guildhall, depending on who ruled at the time. They finally fell into disrepair during World War I.
It’s home to a fantastic amount of English history and unique sights to be seen.
In the late 19th century, roughly 57 acres of marshland were purchased from the Earl of Dysart, intending to improve the flood prevention plans in the area. He inherited the land from his father, Lord Basil Manners. The latter bought it from a private owner some years earlier during the First World War, when many historic buildings were pulled down for fear of becoming damaged or destroyed by enemy action. Such preservation was common at that time to save buildings.
The main feature is an elaborate stone ruin that symbolises ancient history dating back to Roman times. There’s also an Octagonal Shelter to keep you dry on wet days or nights. Up until 2011, it had a beautiful ornamental lake, complete with a waterfall. Another slightly hidden feature is the walkway that runs through the middle of the park, which was created as a fire break in case of war and preserved.
The park was designed from a competition, which William Barron won. The first plans for the park were established sometime around 1879 and were completed in 1882 on the 29th of May. As the first major park in Leicestershire, the park’s opening was commemorated by both the Prince and Princess of Wales.
Many excavations and archaeological quests have occurred nearby Abbey Park in and around Leicester, including the famous discovery of the long-lost King Richard III. King Richard, who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, had been missing for over 500 years. He was hastily buried in a monastery, which was then promptly destroyed, forever obscuring the King’s whereabouts. King Richard III was discovered here in Leicester by an archaeological team investigating the site, and probably found his remains using DNA testing.
Abbey Park in Leicestershire has been the site of many other archaeological excavations since its founding, some more successful than others. During the 1920s, a significant project was planned here to discover Cardinal Wolsey’s tomb. The tomb of Cardinal Wolsey was never found here. Still, the project, which extended into the Great Depression era, helped map out the locations of various Abbey buildings, including various monasteries. The foundations of these buildings were marked and likely were of benefit to the later discovery of King Richard III’s remains nearby.
Little to say, Abbey Park is known for having more history than most can imagine. But there’s more to this major park in Leicester than merely historical anecdotes. Today, a visit to Abbey Park will have you exploring its massive 89 acres of land, featuring beautiful gardens, a lake for boating and model boats, tennis courts, a children’s play area, a miniature railway, a bandstand, and a pet’s corner, among other amenities. The River Soar also runs through the park.
All this together makes it no wonder why Abbey Park is such an esteemed park near Leicester City Centre in Leicestershire County. In the past, it’s been a regular winner of the Green Flag Award for the amount of care and quality put into the park. This shows through reviews made online by average park visitors. If you ever find yourself in Leicester, this location is highly recommended for a visit.
The final word goes to a grandmother of 4 who lives just up the road from Abbey Park:
“When I was younger, I remember my little sister going on fun fair rides in that Octagonal shelter building and me. Then later, as teenagers, we had our first kisses under the willow tree there.”
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