Abbey Park History
Abbey Park was purchased from the Earl of Dysart in 1876. The land was then turned into the beautiful green space that sits in the heart of our city.
A competition to choose a design for the new park was won by esteemed Victorian landscapers William Barron and Sons. Barron designed the gardens, bandstands, rustic bridges and summerhouses that we enjoy to this day. Local architect James Tait was employed to design the pavillion and lodges. The park was officially opened by Prince and Princess of Wales in May 1882.
The abbey at the centre of the park dates back to 1143, when it was founded by Robert le Bossu. In 1538, during the English Reformation, King Henry VIII closed it and turned it over to the landed gentry. A mansion was built on the site of the abbey by the Marquis of Northampton.
Cardinal Wolsey died at the abbey on 29 November 1530, whilst en route from York to London. He had been accused by Henry VIII of high treason against the crown, and was due to be incarcerated in the Tower of London. His memorial can be found in the abbey ruins and a statue stands next to the park's cafe.
In 1613, William Cavendish, the first Earl of Devonshire, acquired the property and it became known as Cavendish House. The house was used by Charles I after the siege of Leicester in 1645. After he left, his soldiers are believed to have set fire to it, gutting the building. A charred stone window frame is still visible today.
In 1925, the Earl of Dysart offered the Leicester abbey grounds as a gift to the town council. The deed of gift for 32 acres of land was signed on 31 December 1925. The enlarged Abbey Park was opened in April 1932. It was intended to serve as a recreation ground, with areas for sports. At the same time it incorporated the ruins of Cavendish House and the excavated remains of the Abbey.