Victoria Park is an early example of land reclamation. Originally the site of old ironstone workings and coal mines, in 1896 the Duke of Rutland leased the land to Ilkeston town council for its use as a ‘Recreation and Pleasure Ground’.
In 2010 it was acknowledged that the park was in need of restoration. Many of the heritage features on the site were dilapidated and the site felt neglected. A project to improve the site and raise its profile in the community was begun. Part of the project included seeking Heritage Lottery Funding to help fund the improvements.
The main aims of the project were:
- Make the heritage features fit for at least 90 years through a programme of restoration and reinstatement works;
- Increase residents’ knowledge and understanding of their local park’s heritage and its importance in the social development of their town through events and activities engaging all sectors of the community;
- Increase community ownership through volunteering and engagement in the management of the park
- Bring economic benefit to the local community through creation of employment, skills and training
- Attain and retain Green Flag status for the park annually.
- Increase stakeholder engagement by increasing partnership working with organisations such as Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, ReThink Mental Health, EBC Leisure Services, Ilkeston Historical Society, schools and youth groups.
A grant of £740,000 was awarded in April 2014 from the Parks for People Programme and the main body of the heritage and renovation works took place between May and November of 2016.
Key heritage features on the park have either been restored or completely reinstated. These include the rebuilding of the Hill and Smith Bandstand; the reinstatement of the historic pergola to its original design and the restoration of the bowls pavilion. Entrance gates have been reinstated to the original design and provide a grand entrance to the park.
A Community Ranger was appointed in May 2016. This post has facilitated a number of projects which have helped to increase the local community’s understanding of the park’s heritage including the staging of a series of heritage plays by the Ilkeston Theatre Group, and a Victoria Celebration day which highlighted local people’s stories of the park over the years.
The bedding schemes in the floral garden were restored to their original design. The 100m long herbaceous border on the park has been redesigned and planted to include pollarded catalpas, clipped yew columns and modern grasses and perennials. Victoria Park was awarded its first Green Flag award in 2011 and has retained it every year since then.
The Friends of Victoria Park were established in 2010 and have been extremely proactive in the management and maintenance of the park; helping the council secure the HLF funding and volunteering on monthly tasks such as maintaining the herbaceous borders.