The Royal Parks (TRP) has today unveiled its newest playground project following a major £390,000 investment along the River Thames.
The newly named 'Horseferry Playground' in Victoria Tower Gardens was reopened following extensive improvement work which has not only seen new equipment installed but a touch of history brought to life for children.
Created in 1923, the playground originally consisted of a large sandpit funded by paper merchant and local philanthropist Henry Spicer. His vision was to provide an exciting and safe area for children, especially those from poorer neighbourhoods, to play and socialise together.
Prior to refurbishment the uninspiring playground had been untouched for decades and only featured a pair of swings and a narrow slide. Following a consultation with the local community, phase one of the project delivered significant improvements including the reintroduction of a sandpit, new swings, a wider slide, dance chimes, and a water play installation designed to represent the River Thames.
With phase two now complete the playground has been extended, and further additions includes timber horse sculptures, little houses, additional seating and a refreshment kiosk.
Metal railings, which separate the playground from the newly refurbished toilets, have been designed by artist Chris Campbell and are based around a River Thames theme. They depict events such as The Great Fire of London and Lord Nelson's Funeral Barge, and includes views of the River Thames where landmarks such as St Paul's Cathedral and The Shard are visible.
The Spicer Memorial constructed in the 1920s, to commemorate Henry Spicer's generous gift to the children of the area, has also been refurbished and relocated to the northern end of the playground.
Nestling in the shadow of the Palace of Westminster, the Victoria Tower Gardens has also recently seen the opening of the new Parliamentary Education Centre, which hopes to teach about 100,000 school children a year about parliament, democracy and political history.
Mark Wasilewski, Park Manager at St James's Park said:
"For many, Victoria Tower Gardens is synonymous with freedom, as it is home to memorials that represent liberation such as Emmeline Pankhurst's statue.
"For children, playgrounds represent freedom, the freedom to explore, use their imagination, make friends and just have fun. In a world where computer games and the internet are vying for children's attention, interesting, high quality playgrounds are more important than ever."
This is the latest play project to be completed by the Royal Parks in the last five years which has also seen five of its other parks benefit from improvements.
Contemporary and innovative playgrounds have also been installed in The Regent's, Greenwich and Hyde Parks, and the upgrading of playgrounds has taken place in Bushy and Richmond Parks.
These projects are part of the wider Royal Parks Play Strategy, which sets out how play facilities will be developed through allowing children to play, socialise and exercise, but also by taking onboard views from children, parents and carers about the types of facilities they would like to see.
To celebrate the opening of the Horseferry Playground, which was funded by The Royal Parks, The London Marathon Charitable Trust, City of Westminster and Phab, a series of events have been organised by TRP's Community and Engagement Team through the rest of this year. View the What's On to find out details about upcoming events.