Watered down: Lost London fountains

Three years ago I pondered on the fate of the Centre Point fountains about to be swallowed up by the regeneration taking place in St. Giles. Now removed and replaced by a glass wedge, or pyramid according to their designer; a new entrance to CrossRail’s Tottenham Court Road station.

No amount of searching by me has uncovered these ironic Twentieth-Century masterpieces designed by German artist Jupp Dermbach-Mayen who built the Grade II Listed fountains at his Swiss Cottage studio in 1963, now divorced from their intended location at the foot of Centre Point.


[T]he fate of these fountains seem to be a recurring theme in London. When Crystal Palace was moved from Hyde Park at the end of The Great Exhibition and relocated in Sydenham, formal gardens were created to show off this Victorian masterpiece. Taking inspiration from Paxton’s aquatic landscaping at Chatsworth it had an upper terrace lines with 24 statues personifying trading nations, its lower terrace had a series of fountains set amongst the formal flower beds. The subsequent fire on 30th November 1936 put pay to the landscaped gardens along with its magnificent fountains.


Another lost fountain was to be found in Hyde Park’s North Ride. Only a plaque now marks the site of the Gothic masterpiece given to us in 1867 by the splendidly named His Highness the Hon Maharajah Meerza Vijiaram Gajapati Raj Manea Sooltan Bahadoor of Vijianagram. K. C. S. I. Removed in 1964 its whereabouts is unknown.


Victorians did like their water features, long before the numerous television gardening programmes encouraging us to construct one our back yard on 5th October 1872 Bryant & May to celebrate the abolition of the proposed match tax, erected, by public subscription, a testimonial fountain outside Bow railway station. Its Victorian opulence is remembered in a plaque a little further to the east along Bow Road whose widening resulted in the fountain’s removal. The terrible working conditions of match girls at Bryant & May seem to be lost on the company’s philanthropy when it came to fountains.

Poets’ Fountain in Hamilton Place of which no images seem to exist. You would have thought the likes of Chaucer, Shakespeare and Milton commemorated aquatically would have been worth saving. When Hamilton Place was redeveloped, presumably to build hotels so tourists could get a taste of Victorian London, the 1875 Thomas Thornycroft’s homage to England’s greatest poets would have been worth restoring after sustaining bomb damage in World War II. Inaugurated on 9 July 1875 the multi-figure composition included figures of the Muses and statues of the three poets crowned with a personification of Fame; all but the last of these have been lost since the fountain was dismantled in 1948 never to be seen again.

Picture: View of the ornate drinking fountain, in front of Bow railway station; a young girl stands next to fountain with a jug, other children sit to the left, a mother and child stand looking at fountain; in an arched frame. British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0).

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