When mentioning the Jemmett family in my previous blog here, I was reminded that the Hubert Fountain in Victoria Park is accessed via Jemmett Road. Victoria Park was purchased in 1898 by Ashford Council from the Lord of the Manor, George Elwick Jemmett and William Francis Bond Jemmett for £2,760.
Victoria Park is a small municipal park of typical Victorian design, with tree-lined curvilinear walks, bandstands and shelters. Its most striking feature is the Hubert Fountain, installed in the east part of the park in 1912.
This monumental cast iron fountain was cast c 1862 by the French foundry of M Barbezat and Co at the Val d’Osne Foundry in Haut Marne, near Paris. This foundry acquired a worldwide reputation for such structures after exhibiting similar models at the 1851 Crystal Palace Exhibition. The fountain was first erected in the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens in London for the Second International Exhibition of 1862. (It was shown with the “Ross Fountain” now situated in West Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh).
After the 1862 Exhibition, the Hubert Fountain was erected in the grounds of Olantigh Towers at Wye, five miles from Ashford, but the mansion was razed to the ground by a devastating fire in 1903. Mr George Harper, an antique shop owner and art collecter, who was also, at that time, Chairman of the Ashford Urban District Council, purchased it. He made an anonymous offer to present the fountain, together with two huge cast iron stags, to Ashford on the condition that the Council re-erect it at Victoria Park at their own expense. The Council refused.
Then Mr Harper, acknowledging ownership, agreed to pay for the re-erection, if the Council provided the foundations, water supply, and provide a water display every year on his birthday. Now knowing who had made the offer, perhaps the Council felt they could not say no. The fountain was dismantled, brought to Ashford in sections by traction engine, and formally presented to Ashford on 24th July 1912. Three weeks’ later, Councillor George Harper was run over and killed by a train.
The life-size cast-iron stags were stood on the plinths at the bottom of the steps when the fountain was first re-erected but removed at a later date. However, you can see the stags (and distant bandstands) in the photo above and, very clearly, in this Edwardian postcard. I particularly like the nonchalant gentlemen resting on the fountain … members of Ashford Urban District Council, perhaps.
Last year, as part of Ashford’s annual summer festival, “Create”, there was a celebration of the 174th birthday of George Harper, involving Victorian dress, games and workshops, all of which took place in Victoria Park, around the fountain, now renamed the Fountain of Delight.
* © Bob Shrubb http://southashford.org.uk/
** © RSA https://www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2016/01/blog-engaging-ashford-and-the-fountain-of-delight