To raise enough money to gift a faithful replica of a lost urn from the Felix Slade Drinking Fountain to the Friends of Kennington Park for display.
I am Heather Griffith, a stonemason from Scotland - but for the last three years, I have been training here, at the City & Guilds of London Art School in Kennington.
Every lunch hour I would walk through the gorgeous park at the heart of Kennington, and find myself looking at the empty granite basin where the bronze urn and water spouts of the Felix Slade Drinking Fountain once stood before being lost to theft in 1863... and again in the 1950s.
The second time, it was never replaced.
Left: The fountain as it looks today.
Right: The proposal drawing for the design of the fountain (The Felix Slade Drinking Fountain, Kennington Park, Architect: Charles H. Driver 'The Builder', March 22nd, (1862)).
A Local Affair
As part of my course, I was tasked with imaging a project to dedicate my final year towards and thought of this as the perfect opportunity to give back to Kennington.
There were four main figures involved in the commission and design of this fountain. Felix Slade (local philanthropist and founder of The Slade School of Fine Art); Charles H. Driver (local architect); Thomas Earp (local stonemason); and Elkington & Company (a world-leading metalworking company with offices in London).
The story goes that Felix Slade once requested a glass of water from the occupants of the lodge within the park, who produced “a glass of tepid water in a dirty glass and charged him 3d for it.” Slade went home and brooded over this. In the evening he sent for an architect, and the result was “a fountain presented to the park of the value of 500 guineas.”
I propose to carve a faithful replica of the original bronze urn, researching and referencing surviving prints and photographs to match the original as fully as possible. I shall carve it from limestone and cast the details in bronze. It will then be given into the care of the Friends of Kennington Park to display on behalf of the people of this London borough, as a thank you for the work they do to maintain this much loved green space in the heart of the city.
What did it look like?
The urn was classically styled, displaying two biblical scenes in bas-relief on opposite sides, with arching pairs of coiled snakes for handles, and topped with an acorn finial. The scenes represented the stories of 'Hagar & Ishmael' and 'Rebecca & Eliezer' - clear choices for a drinking fountain.
Left: The scene of 'Rebecca & Eliezer' as it appeared on the original urn (Portion of the Felix Slade Drinking Fountain (1862), etching, Guildhall Library, London).
Right: A contemporary sculpture of 'Hagar & Ishmael', possibly similar to what may have appeared on the reverse (Lodovico Caselli, Hagar & Ishmael in the Desert (1850), marble).
The Task Ahead
To bring this to life, we will need...
- Over a quarter of a tonne (250kg) of Lavoux Limestone, delivered from France by Pierre Heritage.
- Bronze for the finial and for the handles.
- Threaded steel bar and resin, to join the body to the base and to attach the bronze.
- The body of the urn to be turned on a stone lathe at Chichester Stoneworks.
- 106 days (over 1,100 hours) to model the designs and hand-carve the detail.
- The delicate details of the handles and the finial must first be modeled in clay and then reformed in wax, before finally being cast in bronze using the lost wax method.
- Everything must then be fitted together and delivered for display to the public in The Collective Kennington Park Café.
The empty basin of this once-fine fountain raises immediate curiosity - what was once there?
By visually answering this question, a connection is made with the past that echoes through the generations and reignites interest in the long history of Kennington Park: from its beginnings in the Chartist movement of the 19th Century; through the changing layout of the gardens; the evolution of the sports and recreation areas and the great and many forces that have altered and shaped it into the park we know today.
In these times of sustainability, drinking fountains have been gaining in popularity, and are currently being installed with an enthusiasm unmatched since the trend of The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association in the days of Felix Slade. With enough exposure, perhaps one day there will be a thirst for the restoration of this Lambeth-local's legacy, to once again bring the gift of clean, fresh drinking water to the park and people of Kennington.
Other Ways You Can Support the Project
I fully understand that not everyone is going to feel able to donate, particularly in these current times, and there are many other ways you can support. If you know anyone who you believe would be interested in supporting the project, be them: park fans; joggers; dog walkers; friends in Kennington; fellow stonemasons, or simply lovers of history, then please share this page with them. It will be a huge help.
A previous campaign on Indiegogo in December of last year raised £567 (after platform fees), and with your help, this campaign will complete the target.