An iconic fountain which was first installed in 1896 has been switched back on for the first time in living memory for many people.
This is as the multi-million pound restoration of Hanley Park prepares to enter an exciting new chapter.
Four water-spouting dragons once proudly surrounded the park’s terracotta Hammersley Fountain but were removed at some unknown point in time, and to this day no-one knows what happened to them.
When Stoke-on-Trent City Council was awarded more than £4.5 million in June 2015 following a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund for restoration work, restoring the fountain and its dragons to their former glory was one of the many exciting ideas drawn up.
Now following painstaking work by specialist craftspeople to rebuild the fountain and dragons, with the help of members of the public who came forward and shared their old photographs of the feature, the fountain has been brought back to life. The earliest available photos of the fountain from the mid-1930s showed at least one of the four dragons missing and the water feature not working.
A celebration event took place today at the park where the fountain was officially switched on, with the help of Lord Mayor Councillor Irving, Anthony Munday, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, and Brenda Spencer, who helps out in the park as a volunteer and was born in 1939 a stone’s throw away – but can’t remember the fountain ever being switched on herself.
The switch-on of the fountain comes as it can be revealed the final and largest restoration contract at the park now has an official start date of Monday, September 4. Workers will be on site for 52 weeks and during this time, visitors will notice an increase of visible restoration work in the centre of the park itself.
Work will include the long-awaited revival of the main pavilion, terrace garden, bandstand, boathouse, canal bridges, bowls pavilions and park lodges. There will also be lots of fresh landscaping and planting, giving the historic park a new lease of life as it enters its 121st year.
Plans will see the main pavilion turned into a café, which will include multi-functional rooms, public toilets and a kitchen area, and a lighting and power supply added to the bandstand to host events. A boat hire facility will also return to the lake and improvements made to toilet and CCTV provision.
Councillor Anthony Munday, cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “With the Hammersley Fountain now fully repaired and switched on for the first time in at least 80 years, and work starting on the main body of improvements to the park next month, this is a really exciting time for the park and the city as a whole.
“The park is already a well-visited and popular facility but it has the potential to be so much more, and this restoration project is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to unlock that potential and make the park a real jewel in the city’s crown.
“A lot of work has already taken place at the park including refurbishing gates, entrances and footpaths, but for me this final phase is the really exciting part, when where people will start to see visible improvements taking place. I’m particularly looking forward to the pavilion being restored and turned into a café and community space, and the return of boat hire on the lake – both of which will breathe new life into the heart of the park.
“In 2018, our visitors will be able to enjoy a brew with the best view in the city on the park's sun-kissed terrace. This will be a park with much-improved event capabilities, and a landscape that will feel altogether safer and more welcoming for all. And if we are successful with our UK City of Culture 2021 bid, as we all hope that we will be, then what a fantastic place the park will be to host a range of events.”
Hanley Park, which is Grade II* listed and opened in 1897, is one of the largest Victorian parks in the country.
Designed by landscape architect Thomas Mawson, the park currently attracts nearly one million visitors a year. It is hoped with the restoration work, this will increase by at least 40 per cent, to 1.4 million, by 2020.
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