On Monday, 9th May, 2005 a fully restored and functioning Doulton Fountain was unveiled by the Lord Provost at its new location to the front of the People’s Palace on Glasgow Green. The muliti-million pound restoration project, undertaken by Ibstock Hathernware with the aid of Glasgow firm Hunter and Clark over a period of several years, has seen the fountain dismantled and removed from its original position. The restoration involved the use of old photographs and stored fragments of the badly vandalized monument to recreate the fountain in all of its original glory. At its new site, the fountain will be floodlit and under video surveillance to help prevent the assaults which it was frequently subject to in the past. The following description was written in 2000 and gives an idea of the condition into which it had fallen.
This remarkable terracotta structure is reputedly the largest of its kind in the world and was produced by Doulton & Co for the Glasgow Exhibition of 1888 at Kelvingrove Park. All of the work was hand-crafted to demonstrate the company's skill, but it was not originally intended to serve as a functioning fountain. It was gifted to the city by Sir Henry Doulton following the Exhibition and located in Glasgow Green in 1890.
The fountain's theme is a celebration of the British Empire, then at the peak of its power. The Queen-Empress Victoria reigns over three lower tiers. Immediately below her, water carrying maids empty the contents of their vessels onto the other tiers. Beneath are representatives of the source of the Empire’s power - a sailor and one soldier from each of Scotland, England and Wales. On the lowest tier of the 46 feet high edifice are four groups of figures, each personifying a major colony - South Africa, Australia, Canada and India.
The fountain was struck by lightning in 1891 and the figure of the Queen was destroyed. The Corporation made approaches to Doulton for a replacement figure but the cost proved prohibitive. A standard urn to take Victoria's place was requested instead. However, rather than have the overall concept of the fountain thus compromised, Doulton supplied a new Queen Victoria at no cost.
The Doulton Fountain in August, 1974
The structure has always been particularly vulnerable to damage given the fragile material of which it is composed. The occasional attacks by vandals which it suffered increased significantly in the 1980s until most of the lower portions were smashed or stolen. Only those figures on the upper tiers were left intact. To preserve what remained the City Council enclosed the whole behind a high fence and barbed wire, with the centre basin having to be supported by scaffolding. Other elements of the fountain were placed in storage. Consideration was given to effecting repairs, but again the costs involved could not be met. However, as part of the current efforts to revitalise the Green over the next few years it has been decided to remove the fountain to a new location in front of the People’s Palace and restore it.
At present, what was once one of the most spectacular of the sights on Glasgow Green is now one of the saddest.
© 2005 Gordon Adams
NOTES: Updated for 1st March, 2010.
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