Create Festival 2016 will once again celebrate the birthday Mr George Harper, the man who kindly gifted the stunning Hubert Fountain to Victoria Park in 1912!
Commemorating what would have been his 175th birthday on the day of the festival, there’ll be Victorian dress, decorative workshops and a special performance from Mr. Harper’s Birthday Whistlers, all bringing to life a moment from the town’s past and telling the tale of one man’s love of Ashford and it’s iconic fountain!
History of the Fountain
‘The Hubert Fountain’, first appeared at the International Exhibition of 1862, a follow-up world fair from the Great Exhibition of 1851, which was held beside the gardens of the Royal Horticultural Society, South Kensington, on the site which now houses the Natural History Museum.
A French production, the fountain is of typical mid-19th century design, with a pyramidal arrangement of cast iron gods, goddesses and cherubs, rising out of a surrounding basin. The visitors to the exhibition in 1862 would have also been entertained and delighted by the fountain’s original water operated organ, which contained sixty-four whistle pipes set at different pitches.
After the exhibition, the fountain was purchased by Ashford resident Mr Erle-Drax to adorn the gardens of his house, Olantigh Towers in Wye, where it remained until a fire destroyed the house in 1903.
The fountain was then left to fall into disrepair for several years until Mr George Harper, the ex-Chairman of the Ashford Urban District Council, anonymously asked the Urban District Council to purchase the fountain and install it in the park. After carrying out a survey, the Council thanked the anonymous enquirer for their suggestion, but regretfully deemed it too expensive to remove and install.
Undeterred, Mr Harper decided to purchase the fountain himself and pay for the installation costs, presenting it to the town in 1912 on the condition that it was to be played and celebrated every year on the 23rd July; his birthday!
So, on the 24th July 1912, a large crowd of Ashford residents gathered in the park to see the “Hubert Fountain”, as it was now known, being turned on for the first time.
Years on, the fountain stood idle as the pumps and mechanisms became irreparable. It was finally restored in 1977 to play a part in the celebrations of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, undergoing restoration in 1998 and then again in 2007, when it was repainted. The fountain’s musical features however, were never replaced.
Check out the pictures from 2015, for a sneak peak into what’s in store for 2016: