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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.

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Sunflower table top, cast-iron. Designed by Thomas Jeckyll ca 1870 for Barnard Bishop and Barnards. (c) Museum of Norwich, Norfolk Museums Service)

Jeckyll was also the original designer of the iconic [3Peacock 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.

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Boileau Fountain at the junctions of Ipswich and Newmarket Roads, Norwich. Designed by Thomas Jeckyll ca 1870, completed in 1876. (Postcard bought at a local antiques fair).

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As a young man, Jeckyll had been the protégé of Sir John Boileau of Ketteringham Hall, a few miles south of Norwich.

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Sir John Peter Boileau by Sir Francis Grant (President Royal Academy 1866)

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 John 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].

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Postcards tended to focus on the electric trams that arrived in 1900

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“for people and cattle”

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.

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Charity by Sir J Edgar Boehm

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.

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Lady Catherine Boileau by Sir Francis Grant

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The plaster maquette of the Boehm statue can be seen through the door of the Orangery at Ketteringham Hall 1878

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The Orangery (above) was later used as the Ketteringham Hall Preparatory School where the  Boehm maquette (top centre) was still in situ ca 1958.

The sculptor, Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, was born in Vienna and moved to England where he became an Associate of the Royal Academy [6].  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 [6].

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Carte de visite of Sir JE Boehm 1860s (Wikimedia Commons)

At the ceremony to dedicate the fountain, Sir John’s son Francis praised Jeckyll’s contribution and noted his famous metalwork designs.

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Francis Boileau’s pencilled annotation at the top of the cheque reads, “For luncheon on opening of the Boileau Fountain”. Note the names of the famous Norwich banking families.

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 [4].

Curiously, younger members of the Boileau family were to be involved in a ‘carriage accident’ at the site of this ceremony one generation later.

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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.

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The Boileau Fountain 1965 during demolition. (c) Archant/EDP Library

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 [5].

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Boehm’s ‘Charity” statue in the grounds of the former N&N hospital, 2016.

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The plaster maquette of Boehm’s ‘Charity’ remains in Ketteringham Hall

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 [4].

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 [7].

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Her Ladyship’s Pit also known as St Catherine’s Cell, 1886. The figure here is Lady Lucy, daughter-in-law of Lady Catherine who had died in 1862. 

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.

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Lady Lucy Boileau with her three children (Maurice, Margaret and Raymond) and school friend Harry Bennett disporting themselves in a lime tree in ‘her Ladyship’s Pit’, 1886. Herr Stein maintains his dignity.

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.


The head of the C15th Perpendicular window set upon a wall, 1885.

Unfortunately, during the great gale of 1895 two elm trees fell on the wall leaving only a narrow course of arches.


After the storm of 1895

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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 [7]. 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 stimpson4@gmail.com



2. http://wp.me/p71GjT-7q

3. http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/peacock/

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.