Hope for landmark Rondebosch fountain

JOHN HARVEY

There is new hope for the restoration of the Rondebosch Fountain.

Since an accident in August last year, in which the country’s first electric street lamp, now a heritage icon, was seriously damaged, Rondebosch residents have voiced concern that the much-loved structure would remain in a state of disrepair.

However, ward councillor Ian Iversen revealed this week that residents could soon see the fountain restored to its former glory.

“For local residents, the Rondebosch Fountain has been a part of their lives for many years. When it was demolished by a motorist some months ago – a person who didn’t have a driver’s licence, no insurance or any money – the question that was being asked was whether the fountain could be repaired and replaced.

“I have been in constant contact with a very helpful Andy Greenwood, regional head of the City’s environmental and heritage management branch, regarding the way forward. The fountain was badly damaged in the accident and it just wasn’t possible to just put it together again. Now the branch has managed to track down the original foundry in Scotland which made the fountain and still has some of the artwork used for it,” Mr Iversen said.

For this reason, Mr Iversen is calling on residents who might have any close-up photographs of the fountain to assist in recreating the missing horse legs, which were stolen immediately after the accident.

“Once the specialists have had a look at the work required, cost estimates will be undertaken and then the necessary budget will need to be secured, hopefully with the assistance of local residents and business houses. As soon as further information becomes available, I’ll report back to the community. Please contact me on 083 629 7051 or Ian.Iversen@capetown.gov.za if you have any photographs of the Rondebosch Fountain.”

At the time of the accident, the Tatler received numerous calls from members of the public expressing fears that the fountain had been a mistaken target of the Rhodes Must Fall group, others that it had been stolen and some simply upset at the ruin of the fountain’s Victorian charm.

The fountain is steeped in history. It was initially put up for the SPCA as a drinking trough for draught horses in the late 1800s. It was also notably South Africa’s first electric street lamp.

On September 26, 1891, George Pigot Moodie, the then-owner of Westbrooke (which is now the president’s official residence in Cape Town, Genadendal) erected the first street lamp in South Africa – combined as a horse watering trough.

It became the well-known landmark at the intersection of Belmont Road with the Main Road. In 2012 it had began to deteriorate and rust very badly. But at the instigation of Monica Sutherland, chairperson of the Rondebosch Ratepayers’ and Business Association, together with Anthony Davies, of the Groote Schuur Community Improvement District (GSCID), the fountain was sandblasted and treated to a smart newly painted exterior, surrounded by a neat, freshly planted indigenous water-wise garden. The City provided R10 000. The neatly landscaped Fountain Square garden surrounding it was provided free of charge by Starke Ayres Garden Centre.