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AFTER years languishing in storage, one of Bendigo’s striking fountains is about to return to the city’s streets.
To make it happen the City of Greater Bendigo is asking residents and business to donate funds to contribute to the restoration of what is known as the Vahland Drinking Fountain.
On July 21, the city celebrates 100 years since the death of one of its founding citizens, leading businessman and architect William Charles Vahland.
The fountain was the third water feature Vahland designed for the city more than a century ago. It used to form a triangle with his other designs Alexandra Fountain in Charing Cross and the Cascades in Rosalind Park. It stood for years at the intersection of Pall Mall and Bridge Street beyond the Conservatory Gardens.
It was removed to make way for the Discovery of Gold Jubilee monument that acknowledged Bendigo’s gold mine days.
Consisting of pieces that use their own weight and shape to lock into place - obelisk, water troughs, drinking vanities with lion heads and lights made from cast iron and glass - together they formed a striking 6m-high structure.
But as space was limited within the city centre at the turn of the 19th Century, the fountain was dismantled in 1906. Over the years various pieces had inglorious uses - the troughs were used to water kangaroos at the White Hills Botanical Gardens, while the obelisk sat unacknowledged at a roundabout in Williamson Street in the 1970s and 80s. The lights can no longer be found nor the scroll-shaped buttresses. However, existing pieces with known whereabouts were reunited and then stored from the 1990s. City strategy manager Trevor Budge said many people have worked behind the scenes for years to reclaim pieces of the fountain in readiness for its restoration.
“It’s taken years but we are now in a position where we can see it being restored and once again taking its place in Bendigo,” Mr Budge said.
While the council doesn’t have the original specifications for the fountain in its completed form it’s estimated to have stood at more than 6m high, he said.
Photos are guiding stone masons and cast-iron fabricators in creating an accurate reconstruction of the missing elements “to ensure the finished work will respect the fountain’s original glory”.
The fountain was made of Harcourt granite and cast iron featured in the lights, which were originally believed to be powered by candles, then altered to gas. Electricity will power the lights in the 21st Century.
The fountain was unique, Mr Budge said, as it offered water for humans, dogs and horses. Despite being in storage and having other uses through the years, it remains in quite good condition, he said. Another of Bendigo’s prominent architects, William Beebe, manufactured the stone at the Beebe family stone monumental works in Mitchell Street, Bendigo.
The drinking fountain has four small water outlets, which pumped water through the mouths of cast metal lions spilling into four granite water receptacles. Below this are four granite water troughs at ground level that were for domestic stock. The four upper drinking troughs are crescent shaped with protruding ends facing away from the fountain. Scroll-shaped granite buttresses connect the obelisk-shaped upper section of the fountain and will once again combine with a lamp to form the stand and connection to the troughs.
The shortened central obelisk has a decorative cornice top and a low relief pattern of corn flowers on the four highly polished granite sides. In the 1800s gas lights were incorporated into the head piece design with Sugden pattern gasolier incised and fitted to elaborate cast metal brackets to complete the fountain.
City heritage planner Dannielle Orr said its original position at the Pall Mall/Bridge Street intersection was a busy turning circle for horse-drawn carriages of the day. “Cabbies today use that area near Howard Place to pick up passengers, just as they did more than 100 years ago. While the scenery and layout has changed the purpose of the area is the same.”
Mr Budge said corporate and private donations had been received, with a target of $250,000 needed for complete restoration and installation of the fountain.
The fountain will sit at Bull Street between the Law Courts and the Conservatory Gardens. It will align with the Town Hall, another of Vahland’s designs. A fitting reminder of how one man’s vision and work continues to influence the central Victorian city.
Events to celebrate the life and work of W.C. Vahland will continue in Bendigo until July 2016. To find out more go to celebratevahland.com.