Wembley Park loves celebrating its amazing heritage. We’ve put together our top 10 whimsical and unusual facts to amuse you this February.
ONE. Edward Watkin had asked Gustave Eiffel to design the tower in his new pleasure grounds, but Eiffel declined, saying that if he did the French people, “would not think me so good a Frenchman as I hope I am.” Built by the same company which built Blackpool Tower, the tower opened in 1896 but was sadly never completed and became known as ‘Watkin’s folly.’
TWO. King George V opened the British Empire Exhibition on St George’s Day 1924. The opening ceremony was broadcast live on radio, the first by a British monarch, made famous in the recent film ‘The King’s Speech.’ Wembley was at the cutting edge of innovation – as with the superfast broadband today – and the King sent a telegram that travelled around the world in one minute 20 seconds before being given back to him by a messenger boy.
THREE. Sir Arthur Elvin, the man who saved Wembley Stadium, began his connection with Wembley Park by working in a cigarette stall at the British Empire Exhibition. Not only did the exhibition eventually make Arthur Elvin a millionaire, it was also where he met his future wife, Jennie Harding, the manageress of the jewellery section of the Palace of Industry.
FOUR. In 1924 the Canadian Pavilion displayed a life-size figure of the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) and his horse, sculpted in butter and preserved in a refrigerated case. If anyone is good at butter sculpting we would LOVE to see pics, please Tweet us @wembleypark!
FIVE. There is a story that a small steam engine used during the construction of the old Stadium was buried under the pitch, but the only steam engine used is still operating, on a private railway at Fawley Hill near Henley.
SIX. The original ‘Sacred Turf’ actually came from Wembley Park Golf Course.
SEVEN. The 1948 London Olympics were the most modest ever staged, costing just £730,000. They later became known as the ‘Austerity Games’. Many of the participating nations contributed food to cater for the athletes and some athletes even stayed in Wembley homes.
EIGHT. In summer 1960, the Stadium hosted ski jumping, with a specially constructed tower and machine-produced snow. This is what we’d like at Wembley Park this year…
NINE. American stuntman Evel Knievel successfully jumped over 13 single-decker buses on 31st May 1975, albeit not without being injured.
TEN. And for all the new French families in our community, Wembley Park Mansion became a convent for French nuns in 1905.
To explore the heritage of Wembley Park in more detail, click here.