In the Beginning
Victoria Park is Ilkeston's early example of land reclamation. A map of the area circa 1852 shows ironstone workings and coal mines, the Black Rake ironstone workings running parallel with Pimlico, the Manners Colliery to the north of Manor Road and south of Shipley, and Rutland No.4 pit in the angle formed by what are now Manners and Lord Hatton Road.
The extraction of the iron ore continued until 1871 with a tramway of the Butterley Ironstone Company transporting the ironstone down what is now Manners Road, across Bath Street, to the Midland Railway.
On June 21st, 1887, an immense bonfire was lit upon 'the Hill', as it was known locally, to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee. By this time it was an open area where people went for a stroll.
On March 26th, 1896, The Council was acquainted of 'certain parcels of land which the Duke of Rutland was prepared to lease to the Corporation for as long a term as can be operated by law'.
The Town Clerk submitted a plan in September of that year showing the site in question, containing approximately 8 acres, which the Duke of Rutland had offered subject to certain conditions, these being:
That it should be kept for the Public as a Recreation and Pleasure Ground;
That the Corporation enclose the Ground with substantial fencing and fix three entrance gates;
That the Corporation make and pay half the cost of making and draining the roads adjacent to the Recreation Ground (Drummond Road, Bristol Road and Manners Road);
That the Corporation lay out and drain the Ground and make such walks and plant such shrubs and flowers as they shall determine;
That the Corporation shall assist in the diversion of any public rights of way across the Ground or land adjacent;
And that the Corporation shall retain in perpetuity this piece of land, keep it in order and not permit adult cricket or football matches.
In August, 1897, a temporary Bandstand was built on the highest point – this was a wooden platform on blocks. This followed the Deed of Conveyance being received in July of that year.
The Park was fenced in with iron railings and four gates were fitted. A large double ornamental gate at the corner of Bristol Road and Drummond Road, a similar one at the corner of the Park near the junction of Bristol Road and Manners Road, and two smaller gates elsewhere. These gates were closed and locked at sunset. Closing time was announced by the ringing of a large hand bell, which was kept in the greenhouse. The Park was landscaped with flowerbeds, trees and shrubs, and large areas were grassed.
On August 20th, 1902, the 84 year old Duke of Rutland performed the opening ceremony, giving the ground the name of Victoria Park and being presented with a silver gilt key to mark the occasion. The Duke and the Mayor each planted an oak tree. These are now mature specimens in the park.