Fountain of worries

The location of the Mowbray fountain has locals worried and prompted requests to have the historic landmark relocated to a safer location.

Mowbray residents fear their iconic 19th century horse fountain will be destroyed if it’s not relocated to a safer spot.

The SPCA donated the Mowbray fountain to the City of Cape Town in the 1890s. It’s a landmark at the intersection of Durban and Campground roads but has fallen into disrepair, and residents like Hermanus Pieterse say it’s in a dangerous spot.

Mr Pieterse, said he had been passing the fountain for 30 years but in all that time it had not seen a coat of paint.
“So much history in one fountain, but nobody, other than the locals, tends to think the fountain deserves to be refurbished.

“I mean, this fountain has been here for years now, even before my time. Is that not enough history to warrant a coat of paint?”

He said the fountain had already survived a few near misses from cars taking the sharp turn off from Durban and into Campground Road.

“If somebody is going to knock down that fountain, I doubt the council will even consider fixing it.”

In August 2015, a similar fountain in Rondebosch was destroyed when a drunk driver smashed into it.

Mowbray residents fear something similar could happen to their own fountain, which is identical to the Rondebosch one.

Both fountains are supposed to be maintained and refurbished by the City’s Transport and Urban Development Authority, assisted by the environmental management department.

Tania Diedericks, a Mowbray resident who works in the area, said the fountain was part of the fabric of the area.

“A piece of history in our community acting as a landmark,” she said. “Such a thing of beauty standing is in such grave danger of being destroyed, but the worst part is, nobody from the council seems to care one bit. The least they can do is give it a paint and perhaps make it more outstanding for all to see.”

She said she had seen a motorist nearly plough into it after taking the sharp turn into Campground Road.

Last year ward councillor Ian Iversen said the City was considering dismantling the Mowbray fountain to replace the damaged Rondebosch fountain.

“Its parts can be used for recreating the necessary moulds for the broken parts of the Rondebosch fountain,” he said at the time.

But that suggestion was shot down by the Mowbray community.

Chairperson for the Rosebank and Mowbray Civic Association, Jonathan Hobday, called the proposal “outrageous” and rejected “the hijacking of Mowbray’s historic horse fountain” to be used as a replacement.

Mr Hobday said the civic association had been fighting for more than a decade to have the horse fountain restored and the intersection upgraded, but the requests had fallen on deaf ears.

“It’s a huge part of history. We are very keen for that historic icon to be refurbished, and we want to have it moved to avoid it from being in danger from being destroyed.”

The City’s Mayco member for transport and urban development, Brett Herron, said the City hadn’t received any submissions from the public about the fountain. But he agreed it needed some maintenance and repairs to the base, drinking trough and horse legs.

“The City is in the process of appointing a specialist company to undertake the repairs. A site meeting is also being planned,” Mr Herron said.

With regards to the damaged Rondebosch fountain, he said: “The City is exploring options to repair the fountain based on the original design. Unfortunately, the original foundry in the UK where the fountain was manufactured no longer exists. While there are detailed schematic drawings of the fountain, there are no measured and dimensioned plans.

“All of the parts to be repaired and replaced will need to be cast from existing parts of other fountains, such as the Mowbray fountain.

“This is highly specialised work and the necessary skills are scarce. However, a local foundry in Cape Town may be able to assist.”