Witley Court Wins! Restored Fountain Gets Top National Award

By David Prudames | 16 November 2004
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Shows a photograph of the restored fountain, water jets spouting high in the air. A woman and child walking past it, give some idea of how huge it is.

It cost the equivalent of £1m when it was built in the 19th century and needed another £1m to be restored. Photo: Andrew Fox.

Back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, its central jet shot water almost 30 metres into the air and when it was fired up the sound was likened to the 'noise of an oncoming steam train'.

But, for 70 years the Perseus and Andromeda fountain sat dormant in the sculpted gardens of Witley Court in Worcestershire, until under the management of English Heritage a £1 million restoration brought its glory days back.

The project has now been named as joint winner of the third Marsh Fountain Society Award for the best restoration of a fountain, cascade or water feature in the last five years.

A £1,250 prize was given to English Heritage Head of Project Management, Ian Hurst during the Annual General Meeting of the Fountain Society at London's Naval Club on November 15.

Shows a photograph of a stonemason working on a sea monster during restoration work.

Stonemason Richard Powels working on the sea monster sculpture in 2002, after a £727,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund made the restoration possible. Photo: David Burges.

"We are delighted that Witley Court has won this award," explained Mark Badger, Head of Visitor Operations at the property.

"It is a wonderful tribute to all the people who have been involved with the project – the promoters, the enthusiasts, the craftsmen the engineers and the project managers," he said.

"We’re also extremely grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing the money we needed," added Mark, "and to the visitors who have flocked to see the fountain since the restoration was completed."

Restoration work began in May 2002 and saw expert stonemasons re-carve the wings of Perseus’ rearing horse, Pegasus, which were damaged during the 1960s by a direct lightning strike.

Shows a stonemason removing a broken foot for repair at the start of the resoration work in May 2002.

Stonemason John Pudney removes a massive shoe for repairs during the restoration in 2002. Photo: David Burges.

Other missing pieces of stonework had to be added, including Perseus’ arms and legs. A gleaming spear and chains had to be replaced in non-conducting fibreglass resin and a cascade of 29 jets around a central plume needed restarting.

The project was finally finished in April 2003 when the water jets were fired up for the first time in 70 years to the delight of around 5000 people who flocked to see it over the Easter weekend.

For Director of the Prince of Wales’ Phoenix Trust and restoration expert of the judging panel, Jill Channer, Witley Court’s waterworks were a clear winner.

"The spectacular restoration of the Perseus and Andromeda fountain has transformed the sound and sensation of the space it occupies," she said, "enhanced the public’s enjoyment of Witley Court, and set a new standard in the re-creation of historic water features."

Shows a black and white photograph of the fountain, jets spouting, in front of Witley Court as it looked in the 1880s.

The Perseus and Andromeda Fountain as it was in the 1880s. © The Graham Stansfield Collection.

Sitting in a 54 metre-wide pool, the 20-ton sculpture and its series of 29 gushing jets has been compared both to the famous fountains at Versailles and the smaller Trevi fountain in Rome.

It was first fired in the 1860s, forming the centrepiece of gardens created by one of the 19th century’s greatest garden designers, WA Nesfield, and was described as making the 'noise of an oncoming steam train'.

Joint winner of the Fountain Society Awards with the Grand Vista fountains in Battersea Park, Perseus and Andromeda was also commended at the recent Natural Stone Awards.

Existing to champion the cause of fountains, cascades and water features of aesthetic merit or for public enjoyment, the Fountain Society works to promote the provision of new fountains and restore those fallen into decay.

This year’s awards were a double success for English Heritage, whose restoration of the Venus fountain at Bolsover Castle in Derbyshire was highly commended.

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