HISTORIC England is celebrating 40 years of protecting historic public parks and gardens with an exciting archival project, revealing exclusive pictures of Colchester’s Castle Park.

Historic England’s Register of Parks and Special Gardens of Historical Interest in England was established 40 years ago, back in 1983, and now features over 1,700 sites.

Despite the 40 year anniversary, Colcestrians have been able to enjoy the tranquil beauty of Castle Park for just over 130 years now, with the historic site celebrating its milestone birthday in November of last year.

The gates of the historic site were formally opened for public use in October 1892, by the Lord Mayor of London, who was the first to enter.

Gazette: Wendy Jane Beckett, aged three, with her mum Gwen taking a walk in the Castle park in the 1980sWendy Jane Beckett, aged three, with her mum Gwen taking a walk in the Castle park in the 1980s (Image: Newsquest)

Residents watched on eagerly as the park was opened with a silver key at the top of the procession in Museum Street.

The occasion was so momentous at the time, that the mayor of Colchester ensured bunting and flowers lined the streets of the then-town, including Head Street, North Hill and North Station Road.

In 1922, Colchester Council accomplished successful negotiations, securing both Colchester Castle and Hollytrees House and transforming the park into its present-day state.

Recognised as the jewel of Colchester, this site holds an extraordinary wealth of history behind its gates.

Colchester Castle stands as Europe's largest Norman keep, built upon the ruins of the Temple of Claudius, dating back to when Colchester served as Britain's initial Roman capital.

Meanwhile, Hollytrees, currently functioning as a museum, preserves 300 years of heritage within its exquisite Georgian townhouse.

in 1922, Colchester Council successfully completed negotiations to secure Colchester Castle and Hollytrees House, completing the park as it is seen today.

In modern days, the site acts as a wonderful venue for an eclectic range of events, from national stars headlining the Anti Loo Roll Brigade festival, to food and drink events, to historical reenactments.

Gazette: Historic - Castle Park in September 1987Historic - Castle Park in September 1987 (Image: Newsquest)

Michelle Burrows, Colchester Council’s portfolio holder for leisure, culture and heritage acknowledged the benefits that Colchester’s Castle Park brings to all of us.

She said: “Spaces like Castle Park are incredibly important and give us all a free place to play, relax and enjoy nature, and the last few years have really highlighted how essential they are to our sense of wellbeing. 

“As well as being a perfect location for a spot of fresh air, quick walk, or picnic the park also provides a perfect setting for a huge range of events including shows, festivals, concerts - all enabling communities to come together and feel connected and proud of where they live. 

“Our Park Rangers and volunteer team pay a lot of care and attention to maintaining our parks to make sure they’re a safe and welcoming environment for everyone to enjoy, and we’re delighted that Castle Park is one of three Green Flag parks in the city.” 

Historic England’s project acts as a vital protection of urban and rural life, preserving their significance whilst bringing them to a wider audience and letting visitors know about their history.

Gazette: Fun - The boating lake in May 1985Fun - The boating lake in May 1985 (Image: Newsquest)

The process begins with park owners applying for a historical landscape to be protected, with Historic England’s listing team then visiting and assessing the site, before it is added to the natural heritage list for England.

To celebrate its 40th anniversary, Historic England is asking residents to contribute to their Missing Pieces Project.

The project aims to build an important image of Colchester Castle Park, through photos, memories, audio, film, text, or even drawings.

Everything added is an important piece of the picture, building a social and historical context of the beloved site and what makes it special.

To add your contribution of Castle Park memories to the exciting collaborative project, visit bit.ly/45OAynj.