London's Most Beautiful Fountains

By Zoe Craig Last edited 48 months ago

Last Updated 14 July 2020

London's Most Beautiful Fountains

London's full of fantastic fountains. Here are a few of our favourites.

The Huntress Fountain. Photo courtesy of the Royal Parks.

1. Diana Fountain, Bushy Park

None of your ten-a-penny Grade II listed fountains for Bushy Park: no, this hotch-potch of statue and water feature is a top-notch Grade I listed beauty.

The Diana fountain features a bronze statue of a goddess (confusingly, sometimes described as Arethusa, the 'waterer') and is set on a marble and stone fountain, surrounded by bronzes of four boys, four water nymphs and four shells.

Diana statue, plus cormorants. Photo by Duncan.

The bronze sculptures lower down were commissioned by Charles I for Queen Henrietta Maria's garden at Somerset House, and the overall design might well have been by Inigo Jones. It's contested who did all the sculpture work: the Royal Parks give the credit to a Hubert Le Sueur in 1637. (Yes, it's really old.)

It's moved about a bit too: Cromwell shifted the statue to the privy garden at Hampton Court Palace; later (in 1713), the fountain and statue came to Bushy Park to grace the middle of Chestnut Avenue, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, where it still stands today.

The whole fountain was restored in 2009, unclogging the water jets, and sprucing up the statues: in its incredible setting, it's a beauty to behold, whether you think the goddess on top is Diana, Arethusa, or someone else entirely...

2. Revolving Torsion, St Thomas' Hospital

An abstract composition of stainless steel, rib-like plates stand at the centre of a large circular pool: this is one of 20th century sculptor Naum Gabo's few public artworks.

Revolving Torsion by Naum Gabo. Photo via wikicommons.

You'll find Revolving Torsion in the quiet gardens between Guy's and St Thomas's hospital buildings.

It's owned by the Tate, and on loan to Guy's and Tommy's, which is a rather fitting as Gabo actually studied medicine and natural sciences, rather than being a trained artist.

Its prominent location also echoes Gabo's commitment, expressed in his Realistic Manifesto, that "art should attend us everywhere that life takes place".

Revolving Torsion. Photo by Mark Spokes.

Unfortunately today we're not seeing the whole piece.

Revolving Torsion was designed to do just that: revolve. It should complete a full turn once every 10 minutes, the turning jets of water adding to the sculpture's volume.

Alas, the hydraulics have seized, and it hasn't been possible to make it turn again. Read more about that here.

3. The Four Winds / Joy of Life Fountain, Hyde Park

Unveiled on 25 June 1963, the Joy of Life fountain by T B Huxley-Jones features two bronze figures dancing above a pond, while four chubby bronze children emerging from the water at the edges.

It's a brilliantly bonkers bit of swinging 60s exuberance.

Joy of Life by our own, ever joyful Matt Brown.

The fact that they tried to rename it The Four Winds in 2001 (and does anyone call it that really?) says a lot about the modern world.

4. Sibirica, Holland Park

It's all about understated simplicity in Holland Park. William Pye's 1999 fountain Sibirica graces a pond in the iris garden.

Simple Sibirica in Holland Park. Photo by riverain_5.

A central, rectangularish trunk pours water onto little pots, just above the level of the pond, sending dancing splashes of water up and onto the pond itself.

It's a lovely effect that looks even better floodlit at night.

5. Venus Fountain, Sloane Square

A life-sized bronze Venus kneels on top of a large vase, pouring water from a conch shell into an octagonal pool lined with light blue ceramic tiles.

Look a bit closer, and you'll see more details underneath.

This Venus is actually sitting on a relief of King Charles II and his mistress, Nell Gywnn, posing by the Thames. The King is picking fruit, while Cupid gets a couple of arrows ready to pierce the hearts of these lovers. There's a deer, a dog and a swan lurking in the background too.

Venus fountain in Sloane Square. Photo by Anatoleya.

It's a curious mix this one, both classical and exotic, combining deity and the everyday, exalting marriage (in the spousal poem inscription "Sweet Thames run softly, till I end my song", from Prothalamion by Spenser) while featuring a famous extra-marital affair.

6. Glass Fountain, Aldermanbury

Hidden around the back of the Guildhall buildings in the City is this rather intriguing fountain, a mosaic of glass.

Made by painter and glassworker extraordinaire Allen David, and unveiled in December 1969, the abstract artwork features geometric shapes at its base, plus a tall column topped by a shape representing the moon, Pac-Man or a half-opened Babybel cheese, depending on your viewpoint.

Glass Fountain. Photo by Duncan.

We don't know much more about it, apart from that the shards of bluey green glass, complemented by the colours in the pond below are all rather beautiful, reminding us of holidays in more exotic seasides than we find on these shores; the whole thing should be a lot more famous.

7. Girl with a Dolphin, Tower Bridge

Woosh! David Wynne's glorious 1973 Girl with a Dolphin seems to be flying, jumping and swimming all at the same time: this is a fountain that really seems to defy gravity.

Wheee! Photo by Fabio Dell'Anna.

Wynne studied zoology at Cambridge; he took up sculpture professionally in the 1950s, when he was 24.

If you like this particular piece, you should hunt out its sibling: Boy with a Dolphin, on Cheyne Walk near the Chelsea School of Art.

(There's another, more famous Boy and Dolphin fountain in Hyde Park, but we're not including it here. Those awkward oversized fishy lips just don't do it for us...)

8. The Oceanides, York House

And out to Twickenham for the largest and most impressive in our beautiful fountains round-up.

The Oceanides in the gardens of York House are a highly unusual bunch. There's Venus a the top, (so far, so Royal Park), only this time, she's riding a pair of hippocampi (half horse, half fish) complete with fin-like wings and webbed hooves.

The Oceanides by Matt Brown.

Below is a swarm of seven nymphs, some on scallop shells, others in really unusual poses.

Is she really reaching for that beer can? Photo by Dan Derrett.

It seems like the artist, Italian sculptor Oscar Spalmach, was more interested in realistic interpretations of the female body in motion, rather than in staid classical poses.

Photo by Dan Derrett.

The overall effect is a brilliant clash of a classical-themed but distinctly modernist composition.

Is this the finest, most unusual and most honest celebration of women's bodies in the whole of London? We think it might be.

9. The Huntress, Hyde Park

We'll finish our top fountain tour back with Diana. This time, she's in Hyde Park's Rose Garden, shooting an arrow. But what a beautiful arrow it is.

The fountain, which is now Grade II listed, was made by Countess Feodora Gleichen, the first woman member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors.

The Huntress Fountain. Photo courtesy of the Royal Parks.

Her commission originally stood in a private house in Ascot; luckily for us, it was donated to Hyde Park in 1906.

Notable Mentions

Hang around these beauties for long enough and you'll feel these gorgeous flowing fountains sweep away all your city stress.

Find these beauties in Battersea Park. Photo by Memake.

And finally...

A marvellous capture of the Marble Arch fountains by Tedz Duran.

Have we missed your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.