Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain
The Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain is a familiar landmark in the West End of London, which is popular with tourists.
The aluminium figure on a bronze fountain was the creation of the British sculptor Sir Alfred Gilbert (1854-1934). It is not clear whether the Committee originally intended the memorial to take the form of a fountain, the idea for which may have followed from Gilbert's insistence on symbolism, and may well have been suggested by him; at all events, according to Gilbert the Committee's instructions to him in the spring of 1886 stipulated a fountain. In the detailing of his works, Gilbert was fascinated by intricate, twisting and curving forms, often tinged with marine mythology taken from the 16th and 17th century with his work, according to Pevsner's description incorporated: "fishes of all kinds, and every class of molluscous and crustacean life, the crab, the lobster and such like."
Gilbert's work was in honour of a Victorian philanthropist, however, For Gilbert the Shaftesbury Memorial was, in his own words, "financially a great débâcle". His commission was for £3000, but the memorial is said to have cost him £7000, partly because he had to pay a very high price for the copper. His expenditure on the memorial marked "the beginning of his financial difficulties, from which he was never able to free himself whilst living in London". In 1901 he withdrew to Bruges, visiting London periodically. He finally settled in Bruges about 1909, and did not return to live in England until 1926.
The fountain was described in the Magazine of Art as:
"a striking contrast to the dull ugliness of the generality of our street sculpture, ... a work which, while beautifying one of our hitherto desolate open spaces, should do much towards the elevation of public taste in the direction of decorative sculpture, and serve freedom for the metropolis from any further additions of the old order of monumental monstrosities."
- 29 June 1893 - The Duke of Westminster, on behalf of the inhabitants of London, asked the chairman of London County Council to accept the Shaftesbury Memorial fountain. He "then unveiled the fountain, and the Duchess of Westminster set the fountains in motion and, amid cheers drank the first cup of water from them."
- 28 June 1947 - Aluminium Eros statue returned to Piccadilly Circus in heavy rain and in the presence of several thousand spectators; two flower girls, who each claimed to have spent more than fifty years there, took up their old places. . The statue originally pointed its bow to the north, up Shaftesbury Avenue. However, when it was returned its bow was fixed pointing in to the south, towards Lower Regent Street.
- 1953 - During the festivity connected with the coronation of Her Majesty the Queen the fountain was protected by a decorative cage designed by Sir Hugh Casson.