Hadley Green's pink marble drinking fountain -- out of order for the last 50 years -- might possibly secure a new lease of life and once again offer walkers and even their dogs a refreshing drink of water.
Chipping Barnet Town Team is to see whether it can help co-ordinate efforts to secure the restoration of the fountain and its reconnection to the water supply.
The ornate marble fountain, just by the duck pond, at the High Street boundary of the green, was erected in 1885 by a local benefactor, Miss Ann Paget.
It is in a sorry state of repair, having lost even the plaque that commemorated its installation.
Years of neglect for such for such a grand, ornamental fountain – and the failure to put it to good use – has angered Barnet shopkeeper Peter Wanders.
He has been trying since 2018 to persuade Barnet Council to shoulder its responsibility for a structure listed as being of architectural and historic interest.
He is delighted that the Town Team has stepped in to support a fresh attempt to see if it is possible to repair the fountain, reconnect it to the mains, and secure long-term funding for the cost of the water supply.
In his efforts to get the fountain back into use, Mr Wanders, proprietor of Wanders shoe shop, has been assured by Affinity Water that it would reconnect the fountain free of charge.
“The official I spoke to said that one of his very first jobs as an apprentice with the water board in the 1970s was to disconnect the fountain. He was definite that Affinity Water would help to get is re-connected.”.
Grants to repair fountains – and to ensure they meet health and safety standards – are available from the Drinking Fountain Association, although securing funding might be a major hurdle.
Restoration work would be extensive: originally the fountain had four push-button taps, water bowls and rings which once held cups, together with a water trough at ground level for dogs.
“All that is needed is for someone to take the lead, the borough council, or the town team, and for them to work with an organisation like Barnet Museum or another charity.
“Grants can only be paid to organisations with a charitable status, and there are procedures to go through, like providing an estimate of the cost from a qualified surveyor, so it all has to be properly organised.”
Bob Burstow, secretary of the Town Team, said Councillor David Longstaff had agreed to make fresh inquiries with the borough council to see whether it could organise the restoration of the fountain and team members were happy to see what they could do to co-ordinate this initiative.
Mr Wanders has spent many hours researching the history of the fountain and discovered a cutting from the Barnet Press dated August 1985 with the headline, “Centenary of a pink fountain”.
It was a report of the efforts by Barnet resident Phil Boatwright to see whether Barnet Council could be persuaded to restore the fountain which the newspaper said stood neglected and surrounded by a dump of a miscellany of rubbish.
Mr Boatwright, who lived in Manor Close, recalled stopping at the fountain as a boy and having a drink of water after playing football on Hadley Green. He painted a vivid picture of its importance at the time of his youth.
“The fountain was a popular starting point for Bank Holiday trippers en route to the swings and roundabouts at Folly Farm or the rowing boats on Jack’s Lake in Hadley Woods.
“They would make their way from the tram terminus and, coming to the end of the High Street, would catch their first glimpse of the green.”
Although the 1985 press cutting said the benefactor was unknown, Mr Wanders said it was one of several drinking fountains paid for by Ann Paget, who with her sister was a governor and sponsor of Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School, and who commissioned an architect to design the Hyde Institute in Church Passage, next to Barnet parish church.
The Paget sisters, who were the daughters of an MP for Nottingham and who lived in Camlet House, Beech Hill.
Miss Paget – seen above in a portrait by Sir William Russell Flint – also paid for a water fountain on Hadley Common, as pictured in this undated postcard, but long since demolished.
In 1911 she paid for a water fountain in central London which was installed for the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association.
The Drinking Fountain Association was originally known as the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association and according to its website there are two other ornate drinking fountains in the borough – at Victoria Recreation Ground, New Barnet, and Hendon Park, but all three are out of order.
High Barnet has one of the borough’s six remaining cattle troughs, situated beside Ravenscroft Park, close to the Black Horse public house.
Previously there were cattle troughs in the High Street, opposite Barnet Police station, and near the junction with St Albans Road, close to the former Barnet cattle market (the former was removed in 1962 and the latter in 1933).