Bradshaw in hand I wrote this post, and discovered that the fountains in Trafalgar are second-generation – the originals were shipped to Canada. Well, one thing leads to another and here is an unintended exploration of the Fountains of Trafalgar Square!
Mr Bradshaw only mentioned the fountains in passing: ‘..The fountains, with their granite basins, have been made the subject of much ridicule. They are supplied by an artesian well, sunk to a great depth at the back of the National Gallery..’. They were placed in Trafalgar Square in 1845.
The original fountains were designed by Sir Charles Barry, a Londoner who was born in Bridge Street, Westminster. He is particularly known for his design of the Houses of Parliament but was active in London and Mr Bradshaw has brought him to our attention with the Traveller’s Club and the Reform Club.
The fountains were built of Peterhead granite which came from Stirlinghill, a coastal village above Boddam which is on the north Aberdeenshire coast. The quarry produced high-quality granite and was mined commercially in the 18th and 19th centuries, eventually closing in 1956 because it could not compete on the scale required by commercial building.
McDonald & Leslie, Aberdeen, built the fountains. The firm revolutionised the production of granite monuments and became Scotland’s most important granite sculptors, with commissions at the highest levels.
The fountains were fed with water from an artesian well in Orange Street behind the National Gallery, and another in front of the Gallery, and this excellent blog has photographs and full information.
In the late 1930s it was decided to install new fountains, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens, with a new pumping system because the water flow from the artesian wells had become unreliable, owing to increased demands. The fountains were placed in the original quatrefoil basins designed by Sir Charles Barry, and were formally unveiled on 21 October 1948 by HRH the Duke of Gloucester, with a dedication service conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
And improvements have continued…
The original fountains are now in Regina, Saskatchewan, and Ottawa. In Regina ‘.. The fountain itself is set between the Legislative Building and Wascana Lake. It is in a state of decrepitude, with only a dribble issuing forth and a very putrid pool. I don’t know why, since everything else in the area is so well maintained..’, says my friend, who also sent the photographic evidence!