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The Good, The Standard, the Ugly: Defunct Fountain

Jonathan Schofield on a rubbish Royal Wedding memorial

Written by . Published on April 28th 2011.


The Good, The Standard, the Ugly: Defunct Fountain

Category

Ugly 

What?

Indeed what?

What do you mean?

I mean what were people thinking? 

Calm down dear as the PM says, breathe, what are you on about?

That fountain in Lincoln Square. The one made from chocolate coloured bricks. According to the inscription on the side of the thing it says: ‘This fountain commemorates the wedding of HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer. 29 July 1981.’

Eh? There’s no fountain in Lincoln Square, I’ve looked.

Well technically there isn’t one any more. But there was. Look at this picture of Lincoln Square from the days of The Smiths and you’ll see one of those classic dribbly pointless fountains where now there’s a flowerbed.

So what happened here then?

It appears that the city fathers and mothers watched on as the country caught Royal Wedding fever for Charles and Diana. Then after the event they thought, that was nice, now what did we do officially compared to other cities? Oops not very much. Quick think of something. 

And the fountain was the result.

Yep. I imagine Sid from Direct Works or somewhere said: “Hey, we’ve got a load of those brown, chocolate bricks left from building a crematorium, I could get the job scheme lads to make a brick rectangle, we could put a garden centre fountain in and we have a memorial.” 

Was there a proper design process at all?

No, nothing at all as far as I can see. This was the lowest point of architectural design in the city’s history. It was a time when a fear of the excesses of recent Modernism and Brutalism (Piccadilly Plaza and its ilk) had made the planning authorities panic and look to traditional materials such as brick, even when the scale of new buildings precluded them. Worse they didn’t even go for the lovely mellow orange brick of most nineteenth century buildings but went for a non-traditional shade even though it looked ridiculous.  

Bluebells and sculptures 014.JPG

 

Rather safe than sorry then?

Rather safe than sorry for about six months and then sorry ever after. This area is blighted by bad architecture of the late seventies and early eighties. Brazennose Street begins with the hideous Heron House (1982) and ends with the vile Centurion House (1977) both from Leach Rhodes Walker, both in horrible brown brick. The Charles and Diana fountain is smack between the two and made of the same brick. As opinion has softened over the Piccadilly complex and other concrete Modernist buildings, these structures remain like a poor stodgy Soup of the Day on a Berni Inn menu of the period.

But why is it a flowerbed now?

Manchester for some reason has had a problem with fountains. Within a few years maintenance became an issue, so the spouts were removed and bulbs installed, flower bulbs. Unfortunately the dedication to the ‘fountain’ remained. And then the foolishness was compounded.

How so?

When Princess Diana died in that car crash in Paris, the city thought they’d mark the tragedy with a lame companion dedication to the lame wedding text from 1981. It was sadly an illiterate dedication too. It goes: ‘In Memory of Diana Princess of Wales 1961-97 The People’s Princess Fondly remembered always by the people of Manchester’. It has random capitalisation, it feels like it was written by a child.Bluebells and sculptures 013.JPG

What should happen to the flowerbed?

The whole thing is presently an embarrassment to the city, it’s gone a bit wonky too, the centre of the flowerbed has collapsed. It should be removed, the dedications given to Manchester Museum for a display called the Archaeology of the Recent Past.

Have there been other permanent Royal Wedding commemorations?

Not many I know of. Some street names though. George Street and Charlotte Street in the Chinatown area were named for the union of George III and Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz on 22 September 1761.

Anything planned for Wills and Kate?

There appear to be no plans to create a formal monument in Manchester for this wedding. Shame really.

Why?

I have a pile of old bricks in my back garden I’m trying to get rid of. 

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10 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Abel HeywoodApril 28th 2011.

I thought this feature had finished - it was always my favourite part of ManCon. I had just presumed you were too busy looking at fire engines out of the office window or wandering downstairs to buy an ice cream in your slippers to do it anymore.

Staff
Jonathan SchofieldApril 28th 2011.

Eddy. It'll be every week from now on I promise...unless of course I get distracted by fire engines and ice cream

BulbfaceApril 28th 2011.

The thing should be removed. And it is hilarious that it still refers to 'fountain'.

Simon SmithApril 28th 2011.

Leave it as it is. It is a pleasant looking flowerbed and looks much better than the surrounding paving.

DescartesApril 28th 2011.

Some flowers must be better than no flowers?

Hero
RevaulxApril 28th 2011.

Brilliant as usual Mr Schofield! More please...

Have to agree with Simon Smith - the flowerbed is much nicer than its vile surroundings, and miles better than when it was a "fountain".

I worked in Sovereign House during the late 80s; even its brutal redness is less offensive than the offensive brown beloved of Leach Rhodes & Walker. As well as the monstrosities mentioned here, they are also responsible for Chorlton Street Bus Station, the Trafford Centre, the thankfully-now-demolished Education Offices opposite the Law Courts, and those cutesy neo-Georgian offices behind Princes Buildings on Oxford Street. Their only decent building is their own offices just off New Bailey Street: an elegant black cube. ISTR they want to demolish it though; says it all really.

Michael WestApril 28th 2011.

It was one of my favorite features every Tuesday, glad to know The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has been revived (that is will become a regular feature). Was Brunswick Street not named after some unfortunate toff who married a fat Prince of Wales and got snubbed at her own coronation?

AnonymousMay 3rd 2011.

Great article, do more please

AncoatsMay 6th 2011.

Yes what is it about Manchester and fountains? There was one in Spinning Fields (more of a mini waterfall) that seemed to fall anywhere but in the small drain it was meant to. Is that still a dry bit of granite?

From memory there was also a waterfall next to the tram line on the ramp to the London road / Piccadilly station foot bridge. Last time I was there the dry water reservoir was a convenient rubbish bin for hurried commuters.

And then there is Pdiddy gardens – top of the fountain seems to work but the smaller bit on the Debenhams side of the walkway is again a dry water basin attracting rubbish.

I am all for more rubbish bins – but why the strange birthing stage as fountains?

Ghostly TomMarch 31st 2012.

I wish we'd take care of all the fountains in the city centre. One day I will walk through and they all will be working! Even the one in Albert Square is a bit hit and miss with more power on one side than the other. And there's another defunct 60's fountain in the little plaza outside Century House by the CIS Building. I doubt many people even realise it once was one.

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