Water Chute at Wicksteed Park


Heritage Category:
Listed Building
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Statutory Address:
Wicksteed Park, Barton Road, Kettering, Northants, NN15 6UU


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Statutory Address:
Wicksteed Park, Barton Road, Kettering, Northants, NN15 6UU

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Kettering (District Authority)
Barton Seagrave
Kettering (District Authority)
Non Civil Parish
National Grid Reference:


A water chute of 1926, designed and manufactured by Charles Wicksteed.

Reasons for Designation

The Water Chute, a water ride of 1926 by Charles Wicksteed, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

* Date and rarity: it is the oldest water chute in Britain, and one of the oldest surviving water-based rides in the world;

* Architectural and design interest: the ride survives almost as it was built, and the rider experience is the same as when the ride first opened;

* Historic interest: designed and made by the manufacturer and philanthropist Charles Wicksteed, who was of national and international influence on attitudes to children’s recreation, and the provision of purpose-designed play equipment;

* Group value: an important element of the overall design of Wicksteed Park, created in 1921 by Charles Wicksteed for the health and well being of the public (registered at Grade II, NHLE number 1001524).


Wicksteed Park was created by Charles Wicksteed, designer, inventor and owner of an engineering company which originally manufactured steam ploughing engines, bicycles and automatic gear boxes, but came to specialise in children's play equipment. Charles Wicksteed's factory was very successful, and in 1913 he bought a large area of land to the south-east of Kettering, in order to create a village for his workers, in a similar tradition to Bournville or Port Sunlight. After the First World War, however, the local authority was given the responsibility for housing, so Charles decided instead to concentrate on providing an open space for the health and enjoyment of the public. The park opened in 1921.

In 1926 Charles Wicksteed designed and installed the Water Chute, which became a major attraction in the park. Wicksteed went on to design and make play equipment for children, and to be a passionate exponent of the value of recreation for children's health and well being.

The first water chute in England was erected in London's Earl's Court in 1893; others were built at Southport Pleasure Beach in 1903, and Blackpool Pleasure Beach in 1907. There were examples in other amusement parks. None of these examples survive, and the Water Chute at Wicksteed park is the earliest surviving example in Britain, and one of the earliest surviving water-based rides in the world.

The Water Chute remains almost as built, except that in c.1931 the original flat roof was replaced with a sweeping hipped roof to match the "house style" of contemporary structures in the park.


A water chute of 1926, designed and manufactured by Charles Wicksteed.

MATERIALS: yellow brick tower with tiled roof, iron tracks, railings and staircases.

PLAN: a simple two-storey building, rectangular in plan, adjacent to the river, oriented roughly south-west to north-east, with the chute extending into the river to the north-east.

EXTERIOR: a brick, two-storey tower, resembling a signal box. It has a hipped roof with sweeping overhanging eaves and tiled roof covering, in an Arts and Crafts style. There is a stepped string course to the brickwork at upper level, punctuated by shallow brick pilasters, expressing three bays on the front of the building, two of which are open at the upper level, and the third (north) bay has a six-pane metal-framed window. The upper storey is accessed and exited by an external iron staircase to the front and rear elevations (one for up and one for down), the staircases are believed to be Wicksteed's design for stairs to children's slides.

An iron chute protrudes to the south, extending over and eventually into the river, consisting of two channels for the wheels of the "boat" to run in, on iron supports, and with simple tubular iron safety railings.

The ground floor is accessed by two, timber-plank doors on the north end of the building.

INTERIOR: although access to the ground floor was not possible at the time of the site visit, it is understood the timber-plank doors on the ground floor provide access to a single-cell storage area.

The upper storey is largely open, with a 'platform' either side of the central rail pit to allow passengers to enter and exit the 'boat.' The north end of the upper storey contains the electric wheel on which a rope winches the "boat" and passengers up after their plunge into the river. There is a metal cage around the rope winching area. The roof structure is hidden beneath a timber, panelled ceiling.

The passenger enters by climbing the "in" staircase to the east, and entering the semi-open upper floor, from whence they are seated in a "boat" and experience a thrilling slide down the chute, onto the surface of the river below, to be splashed liberally upon hitting the water. The "boat" is then winched up again on a rope so that the passengers can exit from the other side, and down the west staircase.

The flat-bottomed "boat" resembles the original design, but is a modern replica of the original.

The Water Chute is in its original configuration, save for the early change by Wicksteed to its roof design.


Books and journals
Bailey, Bruce, Pevsner, Nikolaus, Cherry, Bridget, The Buildings of England: Northamptonshire, (2013), 365-366
Wicksteed, C, A Plea For Children's Recreation After School Hours and After School Age, (1928, republished 2016)
Wicksteed Park Website, accessed 13/07/2016 from http://wicksteedpark.org/the-wicksteed-charitable-trust/
The Development of Seaside Amusement Parks and Rides, 2015 Allan Brodie
Wicksteed Park Conservation Management Plan, prepared for The Wicksteed Trust by Sarah Couch Historic Landscapes with Land Management Services


This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building(s) is/are shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s.1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’), structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building (save those coloured blue on the map) are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act.

End of official listing

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