Trafalgar Square Fountains

Trafalgar Square Fountain, London, Sir Edwin Lutyens

Public Art : Trafalgar Square Fountains

Architect: © Sir Edwin Lutyens (29th of March, 1869 - 1st of January, 1944)

Sculptors: © Charles Wheeler (Jellicoe bust and bronze statuary in west fountain) and William McMillian (Beatty bust and  bronze statuary in east fountain)

Trafalgar fountain, England, public artDescription: Two stone fountains, which following  restoration, can now send a plume of water soaring up to 80ft in the air. Three pumps keep the 100,000 gallons of water circulating all year round. The fountain now has energy saving LED lights which can change colours.During St Patrick's day the fountain displays green lights at night, for St George white and blue and during the month long London festival orange and lemon (like the bells of St Clement's). The outer basin walls are the original ones erected in 1845. The central feature consists of two portland stone circular basins which sit on a hexagonal granite base. The fountain jets are located on the top basin, which includes the main fountain jet and six smaller ones. The floor of the outer basins are covered in glazed blue tiles. The bronze statuary include dolphins and Mermen which spray water into the central basin.

Date Unveiled: The two new replacement basins were completed by 1939 however the official unveiling was delayed due to World War II. In wasn't until 1948 that the Duke of Gloucester and the Archbishop of Canterbury officially opened them. The bronze sculptures were completed but not installed until after the war. in the mean time they were firstly stored at Regent's Park and then moved in 1943 to the British Museum. The plaster casts of the bronze work were stored at Hampton Court Palace but were later destroyed following the completion of the fountains.

Cost: The original cost prior to World War II was £19,011 and following the war an additional £27,700. The cost for the opening ceremony and celebrations was £3,875.

Location: The fountains can be found either side of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square, Central London, England.

Background : The fountains at Trafalgar Square were erected in 1937-39 as replacements for the two 1845 "Peterhead granite" fountains designed by Charles Barry. Both Barry fountains were bought and presented to the Canadian Government. One resides at the Wascana Center, Regina, Saskatchewan and the other at Confederation Park, Ottawa.

Trafalgar Square Fountain Trivia: The fountain on the western side of Trafalgar Square is a memorial to Lord Jellicoe and the fountain on the eastern side a memorial to Lord Beatty.

Lord Jellicoe was a British Navy Admiral who commanded the Grand Fleet at the Battle of Jutland (1916) during World War I. Churchill once described Jellicoe as "the only man on either side who could lose the war in an afternoon."

Lord Beatty was also an admiral in the Royal Navy and commanded the British battlecruisers at the Battle of Jutland. When three of his ships exploded and sank during a German attack he declared "There seems to be something wrong with our bloody ships today".  Bad design faults and poor strategy contributed to the sinkings.

The original purpose for the fountains, when the square was laid out in the 1840's, was to reduce the open space available for potential rioters. If you look closely you will notice a police post concealed inside a granite coumn. The post was added in the Great Depression and has slots for which an occupant could fire on rioters. Yes, it is linked to Scotland Yard!

The fountains were originally fed by water pumped from an artisan well (which dried up by 1900). The steam pump used to pump the water was located behind the National Gallery. The whole affair was considered a failure as the plume was compared to a "beer bottle being opened".

Following a year long restoration in 2009, the fountains now have the ability to shoot water 80ft into the air. This can only be achieved on a very still day or it could potentially drench the facades of the Canada and South Africa houses and slow moving tourists.

The control room for the fountains is located at the south east corner of the square.

Each fountain holds about 50,000 gallons of water.

In 1949 algae began building up in the Portland basins so for a trial period they used chlorine in the water. Due to its success the process continues even to this day. You won't find Legionalla in the Trafalgar Square fountains.

In March , 2011, the Charing Cross underground was flooded by water leaking from the Trafalgar Square fountains. The water short circuited power supplies forcing the closure of the line. The flooding was caused fom the breakdown of the pumps.


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