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Fountain Within Small Circular Pond and Eight Surrounding Statues Approx 200m South of Wrest Park House

A Grade II Listed Building in Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire

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Coordinates

Latitude: 52.0061 / 52°0'21"N

Longitude: -0.4118 / 0°24'42"W

OS Eastings: 509113

OS Northings: 235375

OS Grid: TL091353

Mapcode National: GBR G3S.4PX

Mapcode Global: VHFQV.TV50

Entry Name: Fountain Within Small Circular Pond and Eight Surrounding Statues Approx 200m South of Wrest Park House

Listing Date: 10 January 1985

Last Amended: 18 May 2012

Grade: II

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1113791

English Heritage Legacy ID: 37723

Location: Silsoe, Central Bedfordshire, MK45

County: Central Bedfordshire

Civil Parish: Silsoe

Traditional County: Bedfordshire

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Bedfordshire

Church of England Parish: Silsoe

Church of England Diocese: St.Albans

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Summary

Fountain within a small circular pond and eight statues, the statues are early- to mid-C19 standing on early-C18 plinths.

Description

MATERIALS: the fountain and statues are of white Carrara marble, the plinths and the pond walls are of Ketton stone.

DESCRIPTION: this group, of which the fountain is the centrepiece, is located midway between the house and the Long Water. It includes eight encircling statues placed at the corners of intersecting paths from north to south and east to west.

The Fountain consists of a wide and shallow Carrara marble bowl supported on a large square socle. Below the bowl four statues of young women, all carved from substantial blocks of Carrara marble, are seated on stone blocks; all are classically dressed and hold objects associated with water. The north facing statue is emptying a fishing net and has a basket of fish at her feet; that to the south has a dolphin beside her; that to the east has a goose standing by her; that to the west is leaning on an oar. The bare feet of all four statues project over the lip of the plinth.

The individual statues surrounding the fountain all stand on early-C18 pedestals, probably made of English Ketton Stone.

On either side of the path to the north of the fountain are statues representing Psyche and Ceres.

Psyche (formerly thought to be Venus) is based on the statue by the Venetian Sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822). Her hair is tied at the back with a thin band. The upper half of her body is naked, the lower half draped, the drapery held in place in the crook of her left arm. Her head is tilted forward slightly to look at her hands which are held one above the other, and once held an object between them. The statue is early-to-mid C19 and is made of white Carrara marble. There are some signs of previous repairs and all the fingers are missing from both hands.

Ceres is a copy of an antique Italian original. She wears classical dress of a full length tunic, and her right hand on her hip is concealed beneath a cloak draped over her right shoulder, the folds of which are gathered in her left hand. The statue is early- to mid-C18 Italian and is made of white Carrara marble. Now very weathered with much erosion to the drapery.

To the west are Spring and Venus.

Spring (formerly thought to represent Flora) is classically dressed in a tunic tied by a brooch on either side. The left hand side of the tunic has slipped to her elbow. Her left hand clasps a fold of her tunic, gathered to hold a bunch of flowers. Her right hand is extended forward and holds a posy. Her head is tilted to her left and her hair is neatly tied in a flat bun. The statue is early- to mid-C19 Italian, made of white Carrara marble. Now very weathered.

Venus (formerly thought to represent Pandora), a copy of Antonio Canova's statue of Venus, is shown modestly clasping drapery to her front while looking over her left shoulder. At her feet is a box. The statue is early- to mid-C19 Italian and is made of veined white Carrara marble. There is damage to the base of the statue.

To the south are statues representing Tragic Comedy and possibly Clytemnestra.

Tragic Comedy (originally thought to be the Comic Muse) is wearing classical drapery, her cloak pulled over her head and clasped across her front by her right arm, folds of drapery falling evenly on both sides. Her right arm is wrapped within the drapery and placed horizontally across her waist. Her left breast is exposed and her left hand holds a small mask, probably of Tragedy, to the right side of her face. The statue is early- to mid-C19 Italian and is made of white Carrara marble. The details of the face and much of the drapery is beginning to deteriorate.

Clytemnestra (originally thought to represent the Tragic Muse) is portrayed in classical dress which is hanging over both shoulders covering both arms and drawn up on the left. Her right arm is placed horizontally above her waist and her hand holds a small dagger. Her left arm is raised to cradle her left cheek and she appears deep in thought. Her hair is elaborately arranged with a plain diadem to the front. The statue is early- to mid-C19 Italian and is made of white Carrara marble. There is some damage and orange staining to the base and the north-facing elements are beginning to weather.

To the east are Spring and Aeschines.

Spring (formerly thought to be Iris) is here represented as a naked figure, partially draped by a robe which is caught in the crook of her left arm and falls down her left side beside a tree stump behind her. Her left hand holds what may be a stalk, her right hand holds a garland of flowers at her right side. A small bird is perched on her left shoulder and her garlanded head is tilted to the right and turned left to look at it. Her left forearm and drapery have some damage. The statue is early- to mid-C19 Italian and is made of white Carrara marble.

Aristides, (or Aeschines, originally thought to be Cato).This is a scaled-down copy of an antique statue of what was originally thought to be Aristides, the Athenian general and statesman, now thought to represent Aeschines, the Greek orator. The bearded figure is draped and wearing a pallium, Greek outer dress, and stands with one sandaled foot in front of the other. One arm is behind his back, the other rests on the fold of his cloak. There is some damage to the base of the statue. The statue is early- to mid-C19 Italian and is made of veined white Carrara marble.

History

Wrest Park belonged to the Grey family from the middle Ages until the early C20. In 1833, Thomas Phillip Weddell, later Earl de Grey, inherited Wrest, having already spent much time there as a young man demonstrating his early abilities as an amateur architect in the design of the two lodges at Silsoe in 1826 (both Grade II). Although he had great respect for the gardens this did not extend to the house, which he demolished. The present house was constructed approximately 200m north of the old house in 1834-9 by the Earl with the assistance of James Clephan. The stable buildings to the east (Grade II) and the walled gardens (Grade II) to the west were also added between 1834 and 1839. The site of the former house was laid out to include the present parterres and south lawns. The Earl's appreciation of the existing garden's qualities meant that little else was done to diminish its former appearance. In1856 'le Petit Trianon' was built for his children and in 1857 an 'American Garden' was laid out north of the bowling green.

Following his death in 1859 Thomas was succeeded by his daughter Anne Florence and her husband George, 6th Earl Cowper. They maintained the gardens, adding some statuary and replacing the Chinese bridge with the present stone and brick structure (Grade II). The fountain was one of the pieces acquired by Anne Florence and her husband after inheriting the estate. The eight statues that form a circle around the fountain date to the early or mid C19, but stand on early-C18 plinths. All seem to have been purchased in 1862, but may originally have been sited elsewhere and placed in their present location sometime before 1904. A Country Life article in the 19th July issue of that year states that the 'main fountain... is now surrounded by statues which formerly stood at more distant points'. The fountain was fed by cisterns at the top of the house.

Reasons for Listing

REASONS FOR DESIGNATION
The fountain surrounded by eight statues north of the Long Water in Wrest Park are designated at Grade II for the following principal reasons:
* Historic interest: The fountain and statues are of special historical interest as examples of early- to mid-C19 statuary. They were acquired by Anne Florence de Grey and her husband George, 6th Earl Cowper after she had inherited the estate in 1859. They also form a group of special historical interest.
* Artistic interest: The fountain and the statues are of individual artistic merit, which is enhanced by their grouping.
* Setting: The group makes a significant contribution to the setting of other structures within the park and to the park as a whole.

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