The Story of Parks Project has undertaken a series of oral histories to record what Leicester’s parks have meant to people over the years. Here you will find fond testimonies from locals who currently enjoy the parks as well as memories of past experiences which now form an important part of our local history.
9th Leicester Cub Scouts:
A lovely little interview with the 9th Leicester Cub Scouts about Shady Lane Arboretum; games, excitement and night time adventuring!
Adam talks in detail about Leicester during WWII, the arrival of American soldiers, integration and the preparations for D-Day.
Alwyne talks about growing up around Braunstone Park during the war and about changes to the park. Remembers a land mine being dropped on the park and recalls being a policeman in the area.
A present-day view of Watermead Park
Andrew discusses how he came to Leicester and now works in managing the country parks -especially Watermead Park. He talks of the challenges and successes of looking after the parks as well as the importance of their history to local people.
Ann describes living in Clarendon park, the games she played and walking around Victoria park with her young children. Describes traditions such as ‘wash day’ as well as corporal punishment.
Betty talks about living in Braunston and attending school in Braunston Hall. She describes the park of her childhood and the street parties they had for the Coronation and VE Day.
Various attendees describe what makes the Caribbean Carnival special to them.
Leicester Caribbean Carnival 1992
Catherine talks about being bombed out and moving to Braunstone. She describes the park in WWII and about visiting afterwards. She mentions Braunstone Carnival and County Show.
Councillor Aminur Thalukdar:
Councillor Thalukdar talks about Spinney Hill Park and how it has developed and improved. Mentions Eid and the various religious and ethnic communities who use the park.
Councillor Dr Shofiqul Chowdhury:
Early 20th century postcard of a Spinney Hill Park cricket match
Dr Chowdhurry talks about growing up in Bangladesh and moving to Leicester in the 1970s. He talks about the changing demographics of the park as well as the facilities. He discusses the various religious festivals which take place within the parks and the sense of harmony they create within the communities. Mentions particularly Spinney Hill.
Councillor Manjula Sood MBE:
Wrestlers at the 1986 Spinney Hill Park Centenary Celebrations
Councillor Sood recalls that Spinney Hill Park was the only access she had to a green space as a child. She describes the park as being a focal point for immigrants and the negative effects of the arrival of the National Front. Talks about how parks are integral to community and religion.
David describes growing up near Spinney Hill Park and watching his dad play bowls. Talks about starting police work in the area and the introduction of the police station. Mentions the contribution to the park by the Parks Officer and doing work with the local community.
A present-day view of Victoria Park
David talks about playing football in Victoria park and how the number of celebrations have changed/increased. Mentions going to the Caribbean Carnival over the years and other events. Talks about preserving the park’s heritage and the gates.
Doreen talks about growing up in Evington and playing in Piggy’s Hollow with her friends. Recalls attending local dances with the Young Farmers as well as the presence of Polish soldiers from the POW camp.
Gladys, Dennis & Ruby:
Gladys talks about going to Shady Lane when she was 12 and scrumping the fruit there! She remembers fetching coal for neighbours and playing tennis and cricket on many of Leicester’s parks. Dennis talks about getting up to no good in Piggy’s Hollow as well as camping in Braunstone Woods.
Braunston Hall before the recent renovations
Helen talks about growing up in Braunstone and how she came to be involved in local history and researching the park. Talks about creating a permanent exhibition in the park stables with objects from the Winn-Stanley family. She mentions the investment that went into the park and what life was like there before the families were re-housed.
A present-day view of Victoria Park
Helen talks about walking across Victoria Park every day and the beauty of the place in January. She discusses how the play areas make her feel happy and that walking through trees can be a soothing and uplifting experience. She mentions visiting the Carribean Carnival and Pride Festival. She talks of attending remembrance day and
Jack talks about Braunstone park army camp in the war and the changes to the park afterwards. He recalls the park keepers as well as the carnival, bonfires and county show.
Jaya talks about the benefits of the outdoor gym in Spinney Hill Park and discusses the sense of community and pride people have for the park.
Judy talks about her early life in Leicester and the changes she has seen after her travels around the world. She talks about rediscovering Shady Lane Arboretum, Piggy’s Hollow and growing up.
Abbey Park show in 1956
He describes going to Abbey Park with his brother and about boating on the lake and picnics. He remembers the Abbey Park Show and the Flower Show. He talks of discovering that his father played in the British Legion band in Abbey Park. He recalls one incident of escaping from the police on roller-skates after being caught climbing on the park ruins. He talks of Abbey Park as an escape from city life and that it was of great benefit to him.
Leicester Caribbean Carnival in 1994
Johnny talks about how he has been a parks officer in Victoria Park for nine years. He remembers picking up the history of the park from his time as the officer and about noticing the gates deteriorating in 2008 and about his role in trying to keep them safe. He talks about the planned repairs to the gates and them being put on hold for the Caribbean Carnival. He talks about what is required to organise the carnival and the West Indian community coming together to celebrate their culture. Johnny talks about the rise of sports on Victoria Park, the volunteers and about graduations at De Montfort Hall.
RAF aerial photograph of Shady Lane’s World War II Prisoner Of War camp
John describes his life in the services and recalls the camp on Shady Lane that was built initially for the 82nd American Airborne division. He talks of it’s conversion to an internment camp for Germans and Italians and about local people living in the camp after the war was over. He remembers there being night activity on the camp and waking up to parachutes. He talks about how Piggy’s Hollow got its name and the transformation into an arboretum.
John reminisces about eating ice cream in the park as a child. Recalls the park used to be looked after by a park keeper and that the park is used less now -especially the bowls club. He remembers the pavilion and taking part in foot and cricket. In the winter of 1947 there was a big gang of people who went sledging on the hill.
John and June Bird:
June recalls growing up on Home Farm and the effects of was on the City Farm. They discuss the use of Beaumont Leys Farm by soldiers during the war and the training grounds. They mention the land mine which blew out the windows of their house, Italian POWs from Rothely and the changes in water and park management.
Mentions Evington Park Road is his earliest memory. Talks about playing in the surrounding fields and Piggy’s Hollow as well as witnessing the plane crash at St Denys. He remembers the POW camp and breaking in to steal food!
Mary talks about growing up in Leicester and living next to the Braunston Pub. She talks about the changes to the village and the effect of new roads. She recalls Braunstone Park during the war as well as the industries which grew up nearby in the post-war period.
Kevin talks about growing up around Spinney Hill Park, the changes to the park during the Thatcher era cuts and the loss of the park keeper. He describes that the park is safer to visit now and that the outdoor gym and facilities are well used. He raises concerns over funding for park maintenance and changes to health and safety! Kevin also talks about the landscape and the changing use of the park.
Tony talks about growing up in Evington and playing in Piggy’s Hollow. He describes the big Air Raid shelter built by the church and the American Parachute Regiment practising in Shady Lane. He describes the POW camp and the squatters which came after. Also mentions going potato picking with Italian POWs in Scraptoft. Witnessed the plane crash at St Denys as well as the bomb which hit the water main on St Denys Street. Talks about another German POW camp on Evington lane.
Abbey Park Festival in 1987
Tom talks about growing up around the parks and finding them a place of escape from his cramped living situation. The parks allowed him to explore music and love -allowed him to meet with his now-wife at a time when their interracial relationship faced stigma.
Stuart talks about growing up near Western Park and doing cross country there. He talks about the historic landscape of the park including the Great Oak as well as the presence of the railway.
Satpal describes how he used the park for fun when he was young and the different groups of people who use it today. He talks about how the park has opened up since the shrubbery was removed and the implementation of the outdoor gym.
2008 Excavations of the Guest Hall at Leicester Abbey by the University of Leicester
Paul discusses Abbey Park in the 1950s and about trips to Pets Corner. He mentions the model boat club in Abbey Park in the 1980s and describes the Abbey Park Show. He recalls the Miniature Railway and the archaeological dig that happened there. He also remembers an incident when they encountered a man with an axe.
Pat describes growing up in Evington and presenting a bouquet to the Lady Mayoress when the park was opened. She used to play and sledge in Piggy’s Hollow. She recalls the African Americans who built Shady Lane Camp as well as a visit by President Eisenhower.
Neil Harris and Rowena Rodak:
Rowena talks about volunteering in Spinney Hill Park and Neil talks about the various ways the park has been adapted to manage the large numbers of visitors and environmental damage. Talks about being awarded a Green Flag and the various groups which utilise the park including the soup kitchen.
A view of the Shady Lane Prisoner of War camp
Monica describes how she felt when she settled here and her first memories of living on Shady Lane. She talks about how the huts were for people waiting for council houses. She has a memory tree in honour of her parents there. She talks of fond memories living there and how she used to play with the other children.
Nissen Huts on Victoria Park during World War II
Mildred describes going to school in Leicester and training as a hair dresser. She joined the RAF in the last few years of the war. She recalls seeing Victoria Park’s ruined pavilion after it was bombed. Describes living through the war and about the soldiers treated at the infirmary. She talks about using the park with her family and attending war memorial services. Mildred discusses the changes she has witnessed in the park and how she uses it every day.
Michael has been visiting Braunston park once a week for 60 years and describes the air raid siren which used to tell people to leave. Describes playing football on the park, the 1960s pool and boating in the past.
Victoria Park as allotments during World War II
Michael describes renting an allotment and why the location of it is perfect for him, what he grows there and why he does it.