Fantasy Fountain

23 July 2022

Hubert Fountain at Victoria Park, Jemmett Road, Ashford Kent, TN23 4QA

Fantasy Fountain is a research project and musical composition inspired by Mr Harper’s Musical Fountain, known as The Hubert Fountain (1862) and located in Victoria Park, Ashford. When Mr Harper, a local antiques dealer and philanthropist, gifted the fountain to the people of Ashford in 1912, he believed that there was originally a musical device inside it. However, in the course of researching the fountain the foundry who made it confirmed it was never equipped with a musical device. The fountain has changed hands a few times, and our in-depth research suggests that Mr Harper’s Musical Fountain is a fantastical idea, created by Mr Harper and passed down through the generations. Fantasy Fountain celebrates this; people want a musical fountain so I have created a work that sounds like a Victorian musical fountain. It will premiere on Saturday 23 July 2022, Mr Harper’s birthday, and will be permanently installed at a listening point in the near future.

To create Fantasy Fountain, my team and I held workshops with young people in Ashford. We created musical instruments that use water to create sound (e.g. bird water whistles, and water pitch pipes), and recorded them to feature in the work. These sounds were edited, processed and sampled into keyboard instruments used to compose Fantasy Fountain. At the premiere on 23rd July, children from Ashford Oaks Primary School will demonstrate the instruments they made that feature in the work and we will present 100 limited edition free musical scores to members of public, containing the composition and a summary of our research. We want this project to have legacy, and will submit additional scores to local and national archives for future generations to access. We have also have made a game: Create your Own Fantasy Fountain. It features a selection of fountain parts from the foundry’s original 1862 catalogue (spouts, basins, water features, statues, etc) and some additional fantastical elements. Members of public can cut out elements to create a fantasy fountain which will be shared in an Online photo gallery.

Materials: Musical composition by Emily Peasgood featuring samples of water instruments created by children, young people and adults in Ashford. Created with Zoom H6, RX Audio Editor, Logic Pro & Protools. Limited edition print run of 150 illustrated musical scores, free at the premiere and available as a free online E-score (coming soon). Create Your Own Fantasy Fountain paper cut out game, free at the premiere and as a free online E-game (coming soon).

Commissioned by: Ashford Borough Council as part of the Victoria Park and Watercress Fields Project. Funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund and National Lottery Community Fund.

Team: Lead artist, researcher, composer, field recordist and musical score layout: Emily Peasgood. Workshop design by Emily Peasgood, Dani Osoba and Djuna Mount. Technical support by Sam Slattery. Sounds created by children at Ashford Oaks Primary School, young people from Millbank Reception Centre in Ashford, and adults and children who attended open workshops at the Community Hub in Victoria Park. Mixed by Al Harle at Big Jelly Studios. Research assistants: Dani Osoba and Djuna Mount. Make your Own Fantasy Fountain game by Dani Osoba. Illustrations by Djuna Mount.

Participants: Ashford Oaks Primary School: Mr Mason, Abigail, Ayela, Bailey, Ezina, Freddey, Hannah, Harry, Jethang, Jessica, Layomi, Michelle, Noah, Rosie, Wayne and Zach. Young people from Millbank Reception Centre in Ashford. Community Hub drop in participants: Benchick B Burre, Evie Laker, Louise Laker, and anonymous contributors.

Opening event performers: Year 4 and 5 students from Ashford Oaks Primary School, accompanied by Mr Ant Mason.

Research Summary

As part of this commission, I conducted in-depth research into the fountain. An initial summary is provided.

Fantasy Fountain is a research project and musical composition inspired by the Hubert Fountain, a monumental cast-iron fountain at Victoria Park in Ashford (Historic England, 2022). It was created by M. Barbezat and Co., at the furnaces of the Val d’Osne in Paris for the 1862 International Exhibition in South Kensington, London. It was named after the company-Hubert-who installed the fountain (The Illustrated London News, 1862, p. 585).

The fountain exhibited as a pair alongside the Ross Fountain by Durenne in The Royal Horticultural Society Gardens and was said to be “a fine monumental work” (Cassell’s Illustrated Exhibitor, 1862, pp. 65-66). The Illustrated London News described the fountain at the time:

“The two basins are supported by allegorical figures, serving as Atlantides and Caryatides; and allegory can hardly be dispensed with in designs for fountains. The four upper figures of children stand for the four quarters of the world, as we learn from their symbols and the words Europe, Asie, Afrique, and Amerique inscribed on the medallions of the pedestal beneath. The lower figures, two of which are male and two female, are simply and entirely conventional, not having any of the usual fluvial or aquatic symbols. They are attended by amorini or genii wreathing flowers. Masks, escutcheons, floral ornaments, and architectural mouldings are distributed about the various details of the design without injuring the general effect, which is extremely pleasing from the principal proportions conveying the impression of symmetry” (The Illustrated London News, 1862, pp. 585-586).


Earliest known depiction of The Hubert Fountain (E-monumen, 1862).

Barbezat and Durenne exhibited together prior to the 1862 exhibition, and again 5 years later (Rimmel, 1870, p. 24), perhaps due to the scale of their monumental fountains which required outdoor installation, the materials used, and their home country of France. They were often compared to each other, as though in competition. But it seems that neither is better than the other; they are equally as accomplished.

“Both Barbezat and Durenne exhibit works of large size in the park, near the entrance from the Pont de Jena, but these are only extensions of the specimens of which mention has been made. The large fountain exhibited by Durenne is the same as that erected in the Royal Horticultural Gardens at the International Exhibition of 1862, with which one by Barbezat, on an even greater scale, successfully competes” (Wallis, 1868, p. 524).

“The monumental fountain placed in the garden, is a superior work which will be admired by all connaissors” (Section Française: Catalogue Officiel, 1862, p. 160).

Barbezat had many catalogues containing thousands of ironwork items for purchase; from public urinals, to tableware, benches, columns, religious relics and fountains. It was not dissimilar to the IKEA and B&Q catalogues we see today.

“Certain foundries occupied a dominant position in world production of cast iron. The largest among them was French: the Société Anonyme des Hauts-Fourneaux & Fonderies du Val d’Osne (founded by J.P.V. André in 1833, subsequently Barbezat & Co.), whose copious catalogue had an exceptional circulation (Loyer, 1983, p. 157).

Entire fountains were included in the catalogue, as well as individual components. Basins, middles, tops, spouts, decorative features, status, floral arrangements and animals can be found, from which one could design their own fountain (Barbezat & Cie, 1849 [1866]; 1880). In fact, I located near-relatives of features in the Hubert Fountain in both catalogues. For example, the gargoyles that emit water into the main basin can be seen on page 163 in the 1849 catalogue. It is likely that exhibitions were an opportunity to create a showpiece demonstrating the craftsmanship and range of each foundry.

Mascarons in Barbezat & Cie (1849 [1866], p. 163).

During the International Exhibition, The Royal Horticultural Society wanted to buy both fountains for the gardens, and members contributed subscriptions towards the purchase cost. However, at £4000, they could not afford to purchase the Hubert Fountain (Murray, 1863, p. 107). 

It was eventually purchased by Mr Erle-Drax for his house in Olantigh near Wye for over £3000 (which in today’s currency is approximately £405,000) (Drakes, no date; Sworders, 2020). Erle-Drax was known as the Mad Major of Wye. For example, in the 1860s he conducted a rehearsal for his own funeral (Ashford Green Corridor Heritage Project, 2007, p. 48). His house was destroyed by fire in 1903 (Ruderman, 1994, p. 68). 

Mr Harper, a local antiques dealer and philanthropist bought the fountain in 1910. He wanted to gift it to the town he loved on the condition they dismantle and re-erect it in the park at their own expense (Filmer, 1983, pp. 12-13). However, the Council were initially against the idea due to the cost and Mr Harper felt snubbed (Ogley, 1996, p. 97). Eventually, he agreed to pay the expense on the condition there would be a water display every year on his birthday: the 23rd of July. However, his motives were criticised and he suffered a depression. He told the Kentish Express: “I’m giving the fountain to the town I love […] I have been slighted because men who ought to know better have imputed all sorts of motives to me” (Quoted in Ogley, 1996, p. 97). 

On 24th July 1912, after his 71st birthday, the fountain was presented to the town. Unfortunately, Mr Harper was unwell and could not attend. A few weeks later the townspeople were shocked when they discovered that Mr Harper had taken his own life (Ogley, 1996, p. 97). 

The fountain has remained in Victoria Park since, and twice been restored by Ashford Council: the first time in 1977 to mark the Queens silver jubilee, and the 2nd in 1998 following an award from the National Lottery Fund (Salter, 2012). 

Was the fountain musical?

Mr Harper believed that there was originally a musical device inside the fountain. In fact, the opening ceremony brochure states: “It originally possessed a set of sixty-four whistles which were actuated by the water whilst the fountain was playing. These, however, are out of order, and are not fitted in place” (Urban District Council Amusements Committee, 1912, p. 13). 

While researching the fountain the foundry confirmed it was never equipped with a musical device (Jacquard, 2022). The fountain has changed hands a few times, and my in-depth research and knowledge of musical instrument design suggests that the musical element of Mr Harper’s Fountain is a fantastical idea, perhaps created by Mr Harper by means of persuading the council to accept his gift, and then passed down through the generations. Or maybe Erle-Drax of Olantigh told a fib to make the sale? We shall never know.

What we can say is Mr Harper’s Musical Fountain is a fantastical idea, kept alive by local people for more than 100 years. Fantasy Fountain celebrates this. Mr Harper wanted a musical fountain, as do the people who have shared its fantastical legacy and this work aims to capture how it might have sounded if it were one. 


Vasque Monumental No. 19 (E-monumen, 1867).

To create Fantasy Fountain, my team and I held workshops with young people in Ashford. We created musical instruments that use water to create sound (e.g. bird water whistles, and water pitch pipes), and recorded them to feature in the work. These sounds were edited, processed and sampled into keyboard instruments used to compose Fantasy Fountain. 

The music captures a sense of the imagery it depicts, accompanied with sounds the fountain is believed to have played: water trumpets, bells, pipes, whistles and bird calls. It is magical, fantastical and bonkers. 

The recorded music premiered through speakers on Saturday 23 July 2022, on Mr Harper’s birthday, with a demonstration of bird whistles by Ashford Oaks Primary School children. A recording will eventually be installed permanently at a listening point in Victoria Park. 


Ashford Green Corridor Heritage Project (2008) Ashford Green Corridor Heritage Project. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2022).

Barbezat & Cie (1849 [1866] Hauts-fourneaux et fonderies du Val D’Osne: Barbezat et cie: fontes d’art. Extrait De L’Album No. 1. Paris, France: Barbezat & Cie. Available at:…FontesDart_641/page/n171/mode/2up (Accessed: 31 May 2022).

Barbezat & Cie (1880) Maitres de forges: Ancienne Maison J.P.V. André : usine au Val d’Osne Hte. Marne. Paris, France: Barbezat & Cie. Available at: (Accessed: 31 May 2022).

Cassell’s Illustrated Exhibitor (1862) London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin. Available at: (Accessed: 24 05 May 2022).

Drakes, C. (no date) Drax, Dracas, Dracass & Drakes. Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2022).

E-monumen (1862) VO PUB 1862 PL4 – Fontaine. Available at:  (Accessed: 23 June 2022).

E-monumen (1867) VOL 2 PL555 – Vasque. Available at: (Accessed: 21 June 2022).

Filmer, R. (1983) Old Ashford: A Photographic Record of the Last 120 Years. Rainham, Kent: Meresborough Books.

Historic England (2022) Hubert Fountain. Available at: (Accessed: 17 June 2022).

Jacquard, G. (2022) Email to Emily Peasgood, 23 May 2022.

Murray, A. (1863) The Book of the Royal Horticultural Society. London: Bradbury and Evans. Available at: (Accessed: 5 June 2022).

Loyer, F. (1983) Architecture of the Industrial Age, 1789-1914. Milan, Italy: Skira.

Ogley, B. (1996) Kent: A Chronicle of the Century. Volume One: 1900-1924. (4 vols.). Brasted Chart, Westerham, Kent: Froglets Publications. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2022).

Rimmel, E. (1870) Recollections of the Paris exhibition of 1867. London: Chapman and Hall.

Ruderman, A. (1994) A History of Ashford. Chichester: Phillimore.

Salter, S. (2012) ‘Fountain celebrates a century in park: The Kentish Express Memories Page with Steve Salter’, Kentish Express Ashford & District (19 July 2012). Available at: (Accessed: 25 May 2022).

Section Française: Catalogue Officiel (1862) Paris, France: Imprimerie Impériale.

Sworders (2020) 331 Sir Francis Grant RA (Scottish, 1803-1878): Portrait of John Samuel Wanley Sawbridge Erle-Drax, MP (1800-1887). Accessed: 25 May 2022.

The Illustrated London News (1862). ‘Bronze Fountain in the Royal Horticultural Society’s Gardens. Designed by Lienard, modelled by Moreau, cast by Barbezat, fitted and erected by Hubert’, The Illustrated London News, Vol XL, Jan to June, 1862,London: George C. Leighton. Available at: (Accessed: 24 May 2022).

Urban District Council Amusements Committee (1912) Souvenir. Presentation of the Grand Fountain in Victoria Park, Ashford, Given By George Harper, Esq. July 24th 1912.

Wallis, G. (1868) Bronzes and other Art Castings and Repoussé Work’, in Reports on the Paris Universal Exhibition, 1867. Volume II. London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode.

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