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Shalford’s Jubilee Fountain - ‘Elegant as well as Useful’

Fountain

Well, perhaps it was once, but Shalford’s Jubilee Fountain always strikes me as a bit forlorn now, marooned on its little patch of grass, surrounded by traffic and unsightly street furniture – although there are a few brave daffodils in the spring. No longer functioning, facing a road where anyway no-one stops for water nowadays. You take your life in your hands just trying to get a photo. It’s a reminder of the days of dusty roads and horse-drawn transport. Thirsty travellers and their horses – and dogs - must once have welcomed the refreshment it offered. The Fountain originally boasted a drinking trough on one side and a horse trough and dog trough on the other. The dog trough seems to have disappeared, along with the cup and chain on the drinking fountain.

The Fountain is a relic of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, the first such occasion for a reigning monarch and celebrated with great enthusiasm. For Jubilee Day itself, 20 June, the village was decorated with flags and bunting. 150 of the oldest residents were treated to a hot lunch at the Village Hall in Station Road, with all the village dignitaries in attendance. In the afternoon the children marched from Shalford School to Summersbury Hall, accompanied by their teachers, and enjoyed a full programme of races followed by tea. Each child received a Jubilee Mug, and some a dose of measles for good measure. Miss Calcott, the Infants’ headmistress, blamed the rapid spread of the disease on parents taking infectious children to the Jubilee festivities. In the evening villagers illuminated their houses with coloured lamps. At 7pm there was a hot dinner at the Village Hall for people of all ages, after which many went up to Chinthurst Hill where a bonfire – a joint enterprise of Wonersh and Shalford – was lit at 10 o’clock. From the hill 25 other bonfires in three counties could be seen, and numerous displays of fireworks.

It took a little more time to organise a permanent memorial of the Jubilee. A parish meeting in December 1897, with Edwin Ellis of Summersbury Hall in the chair, decided on a drinking fountain and cattle trough of red Aberdeen granite, which would be ‘elegant as well as useful.’ Messrs Moon, masons of Guildford, undertook the contract. The £100 cost was raised from subscriptions within the village. Mr Ellis gave £10, as did Lady Sitwell (the mother of Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell), at that time the tenant of Gosden House. The owner of Gosden House, Francis Eastwood, also donated £10 as did James Renton of Bradstone Brook. Eden Upton Eddis, a well-known artist living at Whitnorth, contributed £5. After some delay in connecting the water supply the fountain was finally inaugurated in July 1899.

Fountain plaque

From the start it seemed a bit of a liability; it frequently fell out of repair and needed attention. There were problems with the plumbing and schoolchildren were told off for fiddling with the cup and chain. Nevertheless the Fountain, or Fountain Corner, soon became a focal point for the village. In the 1920s Shalford’s ex-servicemen paraded at the Fountain on Remembrance Day before marching to the parish church. With hundreds from the village having served in the First World War, as well as veterans of earlier conflicts, it must have been a moving sight.

The Fountain came at the end of its era. By 1914 there were over 440,000 motor vehicles in the country, half of them motor cycles. The days when everyone could have their own carriage were in sight. Bill Warn established Shalford’s first motor repair shop in King’s Road in 1908 and after the war tea rooms appeared at Peasmarsh, in The Street and in King’s Road to cater to passing trade. By the 1930s Surrey had the highest rate of car ownership in the country. Now traffic blights the village and road widening has eroded the patch of Common upon which the Fountain stands. It was repaired again in 1937 but declared obsolete in 1946 and its water supply finally disconnected. But although redundant the Fountain is still regarded as a piece of Shalford’s heritage. The Parish Council had it renovated for the Council’s Centenary Year in 1995. Do give it a glance next time you’re stuck in the traffic there.

Fountain sign