Get to know the heart of Downtown London!
Whether you’ve gone to one of the many festivals, or walked past the illuminated evergreen trees in the winter, you’ve likely experienced London’s beloved Victoria Park. The 18-acre park is a downtown London gem for its various events and lush green space.
Below is a timeline of the park’s history if you’d like to learn more about how Victoria Park came to be.
Special thanks in advance to the folks at the London Public Library‘s London Room. Their London Free Press Archives collection helped with plenty of research for this article.
1835-1874: Pre-Victoria Park Days
The downtown landmark served a few different purposes before it first became a park. The book “Fragments From the Forks: London, Ontario’s Legacy” by Daniel J. Brock mentions other roles the park took.
The British Garrison and Cricket grounds occupied the site during the Upper Canada Rebellion from 1835 to 1850.
Between 1854 and 1859, an integrated school called the Colonial Church Society School used the land that eventually became Victoria Park.
The park’s southern portion, then called Cricket Square, hosted the first Forest City Baseball Club game on August 23, 1867.
1874-1950: Victoria Park develops
The green space officially became Victoria Park in 1874, named after Queen Victoria. When needed, the park was used for military purposes.
After that, several of the monuments were placed in the park, beginning with the three cannons used in the Crimean War. In 1912, the Boer War Memorial Statue was built.
Following Victoria Park’s first ice rink in 1913, Londoners took up ice skating every winter.
In 1914, the infamous black Eastern Gray Squirrels were brought over.
A Cenotaph replica was built in 1934, and the Sherman “Holy Roller” tank, used in the Second World War, was presented in 1950 before its arrival in 1956. The first bandshell was built in 1950.
It’s hard to imagine the park without the monuments or the squirrels. Each add their own unique touch to our downtown oasis.
1958: A start of a winter tradition
The Lighting of the Lights, part of Winter Wonderland, warmly welcomes the holiday season and makes winter a little bit brighter. Walking through the park with all of the illuminated trees makes the holidays even more magical.
According to the book “Fragments From the Forks,” the illuminating tradition began on December 5 1958.
1973-1990: More Victoria Park traditions begin
What would Victoria Park be without its summer festivals? The bustling, music-filled season brings plenty of culture and community to the city’s core.
Stop by Home County for a relaxing and creativity filled weekend, whether that includes finding a new art piece or sitting in the park listening to music.
Along with great music, the festivals feature lots of tasty dining options.
1990-2012: New bandshell, new memorial, and new beginnings
In 1990, Victoria Park got a revamped bandshell. The bandshell serves plenty of events throughout the year, from community runs to movie nights to New Year’s Eve.
In 1994, the park placed a memorial monument for those who lost their lives in the École Polytechnique Massacre, which happened in Montreal on December 6, 1989.
Pride London festivities also bring cheer to the park, and have been since 2012. Previous venues for the Pride London Festival include the parking lot of the John Labatt Centre, now called Budweiser Gardens and the Western Fair District.
Don’t forget to watch the Histories of London: Parks and Festivals Mini-Documentary.
If you have any memories of Victoria Park, please share them in the comments section!