WITLEY COURT - THE REBIRTH OF A FOUNTAIN
In 1989, the Poseidon Fountain Restoration Society asked me for some indication of the requirements to make the fountain work again. They are a group of local people dedicated to the restoration of the fountains. An estimate of water flow and pressure requirements, and a guesstimate of cost showed the impossibility of the project. Nevertheless they made a crude ¾" dia jet in 1992 and using a borrowed water board diesel pump managed to get a jet up to about 40ft, for a "one off" event, which was very impressive and a large crowd came to see it.
In 1995, the pools by now rubbish bound, were cleaned and refilled with clean water. The refilling was done with a diesel pump and 1/3rd mile hose from the main lake. Refilling took 42 hours continuous pumping. A photographic survey of the Poseidon tunnels and the fountain was made at the same time. For experiment a pipe alongside the fountain was fitted with a fire nozzle jet, which managed to get about 50 feet or so into the air. English Heritage was impressed! Later a more professional installation was made by running pipe work along the main tunnel, up the "shaft" and through the original main jet hole. This gave 75 feet high jet. English Heritage wrote me a very nice letter!
For the next few years regular weekend "shows" were run using a diesel powered pump. This also gave the opportunity to experiment with various jet profiles. In 1997 a special show was laid on for Sir Jocelyn Stevens, head of English Heritage, to make announcements of future plans Eventually I received a contract to design a workable water system and to investigate the realities of a possible rebirth. Very little technical data existed. A copy of an original jet test sheet was found by chance inside a second hand book. Also we were able to acquire one original jet. From these, and numerous old photographs some ideas of flow and pressure were established for the principal jets to be reinstated. The original pipe work was a combination of cast iron and lead. The only pipe work existing was within the structure and all roughly broken off. Making new connections was horrendous! New jets were made as an exact copy of the original design in 5 different sizes, and made to emulate the original as far as possible.
A MAIN JET 93 FEET HIGH USING 400 GALLONS PER MINUTE
The original storage lake was 103 feet above the fountain so the pumps are controlled not to exceed this pressure equivalent. The fountain, originally gravity fed from the higher level storage lake which took 3½ days and nights to fill with a 40 HP steam driven pump from a lower lake could only run for 2 hours at full power thus it normally only ran fully when someone of importance was there! Usually only a few jets ran. Generally the fountain ran on Sundays. At its peak there were about 130 jets of various sizes, now there are only 29 but they are the main ones. The fountain is a Grade 1 listed structure.
During May 2001 the Architects made a detailed inspection of the masonry. They also assessed the amount of the original carvings that were missing or damaged due to neglect, vandalism, an earth tremor in 1907 and a lightning strike in the 1980s.A suitable quarry was found for replacement stone for the fountain, and another for the stone steps etc to the gardens. Replacement fountain parts were sculpted mainly in the mason's workshops. Some smaller pieces were done in situ.The replacement stone for the left wing of Pegasus weighed 1.25 tonnes initially but was carved down to only 0.25 tonne.The missing two Neroids were a challenge to everyone involved. A quarter scale clay maquette was made based solely on old photographs. Two sculptors then produced one each, weighing about 6 tonnes when finished. The Neroids were carved in two halves which enabled the pipe work and jets to the nostrils and mouth to be inserted (all in stainless steel).The bows for the Neroids and the replacement lance for Perseus, and the ankle chains for Andromeda were all made from GRP and finished to look like the originals. The various stonework and steps around the garden were replaced or repaired, and a large section of the garden was planted to an original plan. The entire site was also cleared, upgraded and landscaped in keeping with the original layout as far as possible. Paths were laid around the site and a route bypassing the steps was created for wheelchair use.
The fountain now utilises a re-circulation system using 12 Lowara end suction cast iron pumps, all inverter driven via a programmed computer system using the 1 million litres of water in the basin (220,000 gallons).The maximum power consumption is 63kw. The main jet requires 15kw of pumping power. The pumps are housed in an underground pump room in the adjacent field, linked to the original tunnels under the fountain. Approximately a kilometer of pipe work, mostly plastic, has been installed, the largest being 200mm diameter, in the plant room, tunnels, and structure.