The historic Perseus and Andromeda fountain at Witley Court and Gardens were officially fired again for the first time on Saturday 1 April, following major refurbishment works by English Heritage.
The Victorian fountain – widely considered one of the finest in Europe – had been out of action throughout the winter as stonemasons conducted intricate masonry repairs and cleaned its Portland Stone features. In December 2016, one of the most intricate pieces of work saw stonemason Tom Waugh replace Andromeda’s right arm, after the original became detached in cold weather in 2015. The fountain is one of a pair of large and elaborate fountains added to Witley Court by celebrated landscape architect William Andrews Nesfield for Lord Ward in the 1850s.
The fountain depicts the action-packed Greek myth of Perseus and Andromeda, with Andromeda chained to a rock as a sacrifice to appease a sea monster sent by Poseidon, as hero Perseus swoops down in winged sandals to rescue her. The sculpture’s central jet reaches a height of up to 30 metres, complemented by nearly 30 more jets hidden among shells, sea nymphs, dolphins and a huge serpent designed by James Forsyth in Portland Stone. During the works, a viewing platform was in place to give visitors a chance to view the cleaning and repairs up close.
One of the grandest in Europe, the fountain has often been compared favourably to the Trevi Fountain in Rome and fountains of the Palace of Versailles near Paris. Local legend has it that Bing Crosby and Stewart Granger once tried to buy it for export to America, where it was set to become the centrepiece of a golf course in Chicago. With the scaffolding removed and the surrounding pool filled once again with a million litres of water, the fountain is once again ready to entertain visitors to the 62 acre Worcestershire estate, known for its elaborate formal gardens and grand ruins.
Witley Court was once a famed party house, but since a 1937 fire it has stood as a spectacular ruin surrounded by beautiful gardens, which are open to explore. Alongside the gardens, lake, pond and woodland walks, the Wilderness Play Area offers younger visitors plenty of fun with a tree house inspired by a seed pod, outdoor musical instruments and even a grass-covered amphitheatre; just the place for family picnics.
The first firing of the fountain coincided with the start of summer opening hours at Witley Court, which is now open from 10.00am–6.00pm every day throughout the summer. From 1 April, the fountain will once again be firing on the hour from 11.00am–5.00pm every day to entertain visitors. With spring, the gardens will soon return to a riot of colour with rhododendrons in the Wilderness Garden and formal planting on the Victorian parterre beside the ruins of Witley Court itself.
Spring and summer 2017 offer a range of special events at Witley, including a kids’ Adventure Quest over the Easter weekend, a Very Victorian Weekend of fun, games and equestrian entertainment on 28 and 29 May, a gardening weekend on 17 and 18 June and Lazy Jazz on the Lawn every Sunday during July. There will also be special kids’ Hands on History activities throughout the summer holidays and monthly behind the scenes tours throughout the summer. Visit www.english-heritage.org.uk/witley/ for full event details and entry prices.