You may have gathered from two earlier posts [1,2] that I am fascinated by a local hero, the Wymondham-born architect and designer Thomas Jeckyll. Through his C19th designs for the Norwich foundry of Barnard Bishop and Barnards he became a major contributor to the Japanese-inspired Aesthetic Movement and helped make the sunflower its defining motif.
Jeckyll was also the original designer of the iconic  Peacock Room, made to accommodate shipping magnate Frederick Leyland’s extensive collection of china. However, Jeckyll’s mental collapse allowed arch-aesthete James McNeill Whistler to reinvent the room as (an admittedly stunning) ‘Harmony in Blue and Gold’ by literally overpainting Jeckyll’s surfaces to make the best-surviving example of the Anglo-Japanese style.
This post is about the Boileau fountain, a more humble project of Jeckyll’s but another that can no longer be seen as he originally intended.
As a young man, Jeckyll had been the protégé of Sir Thomas Boileau of Ketteringham Hall, a few miles south of Norwich.
It was therefore fitting that one of Jeckyll’s last projects was to design this drinking fountain (ca 1870) as a memorial to his former mentor. Sir Thomas had died in 1869 but it took time to prove his will that provided £1000 for the memorial, which was completed in 1876 [4, 5].
Sir John had been concerned for the welfare of animals being driven to Norwich market, explaining the gift of water, but the statue added a more personal note to his legacy. The seated figure represents Charity giving a child a drink of water from a shell.
Lady Catherine Boileau had died in her fifties in 1862 but the face of the seated Charity is said to have resembled Lady Catherine when younger.
The sculptor, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, was born in Vienna and moved to England where he became an Associate of the Royal Academy . One of his students was Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Louise; she was in Boehm’s house when he died, fuelling speculation in the press of a sexual relationship between them .
At the ceremony to dedicate the fountain, Sir John’s son Francis praised Jeckyll’s contribution and noted his famous metalwork designs.
But within a week of this ceremony Jeckyll had descended into the manic state that eventually led him to be confined to the Bethel Asylum, where he died in 1881 .
Curiously, younger members of the Boileau family were to be involved in a ‘carriage accident’ at the site of this ceremony one generation later.
On Wednesday 16th November 1910, according to the Eastern Evening News of that date, a carriage containing Sir John’s grandson Sir Maurice Boileau, granddaughter Lady Margaret and Rev. Hart were in an “Exciting scene in St Stephen’s”. Approximately where the pony and trap are seen to the right of the fountain a cyclist skidded in front of the horses causing them to bolt “at a terrific pace”towards St Stephen’s Gates. Horses and carriage crashed into two stationary vehicles outside Mr Bean’s the corn merchant. Margaret, who was herself a physician (a fact not mentioned in the report) helped the injured coachman into the adjacent hospital to which her grandfather had been a benefactor. One of the fine bay horses had to be put down.
Jekyll’s double-canopied fountain was dismantled in 1965 in order to ease traffic flow and to increase the visibility of passing traffic.
In 2008 the statue was returned, some 50 metres west of where it had once stood, to a new site next to a pond in the grounds of the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital .
Thomas Jeckyll enjoyed a long relationship with the Boileau family. The son of a cleric, Jeckyll had a fascination for church architecture; he restored many churches around Norfolk and worked on the tower of Ketteringham church, adjacent to the Boileau’s Hall .
At the beginning of his career, in the 1840s, Jeckyll had helped design a Gothic folly – a medieval ruin – in an old gravel pit near Ketteringham Hall .
In about 1847 Jeckyll was called in to complete the pit as a work-in-progress, which he did with the help of Mr Woodbine, a local builder. Jeckyll told Sir John he would, “Build the Ruins for her Ladyship as cheap as I can“. In the event poor Mr Woodbine completed the job for £12 instead of the £18 he had estimated.
In 1849 Sir John had supported a proposal to install stained glass in the west window of Norwich Cathedral in commemoration of his great friend, Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich. Only 40 or so years later it was thought that the fifteenth century tracery into which the glass had been set was insufficiently robust and should be replaced. Sir John’s son Francis, who was as avid a collector of antiquities as his father, bought the Perpendicular stonework for £10 and set it above a wall in another part of the Ketteringham estate known as ‘The Abbey’. By this time Jeckyll was too ill to have been involved in the venture.
Unfortunately, during the great gale of 1895 two elm trees fell on the wall leaving only a narrow course of arches.
This article was based on the record generously supplied by local historian and warden of Ketteringham Church, Mary Parker. The section on the Gothic follies at Ketteringham is based on an article that Mary and I wrote for the Norfolk Gardens Trust News, which can be downloaded online . I am grateful to Hannah Henderson of the Museum of Norwich, Bridewell Alley, for showing me the Jeckyll collection.
If you are interested in the history of Norfolk landscape, gardens and their buildings join the Norfolk Gardens Trust for only £10 single/£15 joint. The NGT promotes the preservation of gardens and designed landscape and has a programme of garden visits and lectures. Their magazine, Norfolk Gardens Trust News, appears twice yearly. Contact membership secretary Tony Stimpson firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Weber Soros, Susan and Arbuthnott, Catherine. (2003). Thomas Jeckyll. Architect and Designer, 1827-1881. Yale University Press.
5. Recording Archive for Public Sculpture in Norfolk and Suffolk. http://www.racns.co.uk/sculptures.asp?action=getsurvey&id=571
6. Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Edgar_Boehm
7. Norfolk Gardens Trust News No21 Spring 2016 pp12-15.