'A wonderful focal point' - History of the Coronation Fountain in Welwyn Garden City

The Coronation Fountain in Parkway 1953 - with temporary banners as part of the coronation celebrations in WGC.

The Coronation Fountain in Parkway 1953 - with temporary banners as part of the Coronation celebrations in Welwyn Garden City. Image donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Marian T. - Credit: Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive

Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust continues its look back through WGC's history. This week it is the history of the Coronation Fountain in Parkway.

The Coronation Fountain in Parkway in Welwyn Garden City.

The Coronation Fountain in Parkway in Welwyn Garden City. - Credit: Alan Davies

Water has always been an important resource and the Romans made great engineering efforts to pipe it into their cities.  

So successful were they that there was often some to spare. To celebrate their success they introduced fountains – literally splashing out! 

Fountains are great symbols of urban pride, and it was natural for Welwyn Garden City to build one to mark the Coronation in 1953 of Queen Elizabeth II.

The designer was Kenneth Peacock, a partner in Louis de Soissons Architects.

The site is in the middle of Parkway at the top of Howardsgate – a wonderful focal point.

Coronation Fountain in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Kevin Lines

Coronation Fountain in Welwyn Garden City. Picture: Kevin Lines - Credit: Archant

The fountain has a bronze crown for a base comprised of 16 leaves, set within a basin edged in stone, 17 metres across (55 feet), holding 20,000 litres (4,400 gallons).

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There are nine jets and floodlighting both inside the ground and around the basin of the fountain.  

It cost £4,600, equivalent to nearly £1.5 million today.

It was ‘unveiled’ on a summer evening by Arthur Vickery, chairman of Welwyn Garden City UDC.  

Mr Scoffham, the UDC’s engineer, had been on site at sunrise that morning to test the fountain while there was no one around.

His efforts were rewarded. Arthur Cornner, the corporation's senior engineer, said “that's the first ‘opening’ of a public fountain I've been at where the jets were not set awry and did not spurt spectators with cold water."

In spite of rain and wind, there were street parties to celebrate the Coronation, and a 25-mile cycle race.

The Fountain has kept going more or less ever since, but not without incident.

Welwyn Hatfield Council produced a series of postcards in the form of a calendar to mark the 75th an

Welwyn Hatfield Council produced a series of postcards in the form of a calendar to mark the 75th anniversary of the town in 1995. This one is of the Coronation Fountain in the winter of 1963. Donated to the Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive by Shirley A. - Credit: Welwyn Garden City Heritage Trust archive.

In the harsh winter of 1962-63 it froze over in a great mound of ice on which children could climb.

In 2012, it was switched off because of a hose pipe ban but this coincided with the Olympic Torch being carried through the town centre (remember?).  

The council controversially paid £450 to refill it from a lake.

It was garlanded in poppies in 2018, the centenary of the end of WWI.

Coronation Fountain Pink

In recent years the Coronation Fountain has been changed to pink to mark Breast Cancer Awareness Mont - Credit: Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council

Several times it has been dyed pink to signal breast cancer awareness.

In 2019, ahead of the town’s centenary, the council spent £22,000 to burnish the bronze, refurbish the jets, and upgrade the lighting.  

The fountain remains a much loved feature of the town; long may it continue to entertain us.

Coronation Fountain in Welwyn Garden City: late February 2018 and late February 2019. Pictures: Dann

Coronation Fountain in Welwyn Garden City: late February 2018 and late February 2019. Pictures: Danny Loo, Andrew Brookes - Credit: Archant

Next time: The man who designed the fonts used on WGC street signs and narrowly escaped being killed by a bomb dropped on Handside Lane.