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Ecclesistical & Heritage World No.99

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World JTC Roofing Contractors Ltd

‘Capability’ Brown lead fountain dedicated

A fountain in Westminster Abbey’s cloister garth to commemorate the tercentenary of the great 18th century landscape gardener Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was dedicated last year.

The fountain was made in lead by Brian Turner, who is a veteran exhibitor at the Chelsea Flower show and prominent committee member of the Lead Contractors Association.

The fountain sits over an old monastic well in the garth. It was designed by Ptolemy Dean, the Abbey’s Surveyor of the Fabric and was developed with the assistance of TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh who gave a Reflection at the dedication service.

Capability Brown designed over 170 parks, many of which still endure. He was nicknamed Capability because he would tell his clients that their property had ‘capability’ for improvement. Water played a central part in his work. He also carried out works on a considerable number of former or redeveloped monastic buildings.

Brian Turner is now proudly considering entering the leadwork fountain in competitions such as the Murdoch Awards for leadwork. He explains why this was one of his most challenging projects ever:

“Out of the blue, I received a phone call from a Roy Kingston asking if I would be interested in making a lead cistern. I said 'yes' although he never said who or where it was for so you can imagine my surprise when I received the confirmation email saying it was for Westminster Abbey!

"I soon realised I had a challenge on my hands - to make the biggest and heaviest cistern of my career, in one of the nation's most iconic buildings, right in the centre of the garth surrounded by the cloister under the eyes of the general public, then manoeuvre it through a door 860mm wide with a metal latch which could not be removed, bringing the width down to 815mm.

"After the initial challenge of the pattern, I had 4 sets of pairs of panels which had to be put together. Each panel weighed an average of 50 kilos so a set weighed 100 kilos; a bit more than I can lift. Each panel is lead burned on the outside then fettled, on the inside; they are soldered so there are no air gaps. Then lead burned over the top of the solder giving a solid joint and this can only be done successfully in the horizontal plain.

"It was at this stage I received my visitors - Rev Dean John Hall, Sub Dean, Receiver General, Alan Titchmarsh, Architect Ptolemy Dean, and the Clerk Jim Vincent. All there to approve and test the fountain side of the project.

"It was a great relief to see smiles on all faces as they came through the workshop door.

"The completed cistern arrived at the Abbey in April. I had to use a derrick to turn the cistern vertical for it to go through the door. Using the same derrick and with the priceless help of Bakers of Danbury, the main contractors, we manoeuvred it into the garth where I plumbed it in and made it ready for the dedication."

The fountain was dedicated by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall. The cistern was designed by Ptolemy Dean, the Abbey's Surveyor of the Fabric, and developed with the assistance of Alan Titchmarsh, who gave a Reflection at the dedication to Capability Brown.

For more information you can contact Brian via email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.