Questions autour de la fontaine de Liverpool

Steble fountain : Liverpool : mais qui a fondu cette fontaine ? Val d’Osne, W.T Allen & Co ?


Voir notre fiche et les photos 2011 sur e-monumen : Steble fountain – Liverpool

The Steble fountain aurait l’histoire suivante, si on en croit les sources un peu floues que nous avons pu collecter.

C’est un modèle du Val d’Osne ( 554T – signé M. Moreau, disent certains écrits qui insistent plus sur Liénard, collaborateur ayant travaillé avec Moreau) acheté après une exposition universelle parisienne (1867).

La fontaine aurait été ensuite déménagée pour Boston (USA) où elle prend le nom de Brewer fountain. Là-bas, il est bien confirmé qu’elle est d’origine française et du Val d’Osne.

Ensuite, le maire de Liverpool, le Lieutenant-Colonel Steble, décide d’offrir à la ville une copie de cette fontaine, celle qui est en place : William Brown Street. Elle prend donc le nom de son donateur.


Là, cela se complique.

Les avis divergent sur le sculpteur : on parle alors de W. Cunliffe comme “designer” : mais les modèles sont bien ceux du Val d’Osne. Quant à la fonderie, elle est marquée sur le socle de la fontaine : W.T Allen (Londres) une des fonderies qui a produit les boîtes aux lettres rouges de la Royal Mail (l’équivalent de nos “mougeotte “.

Questions :

  1. Pourquoi la fontaine initiale est-elle partie à Boston ?
  2. Si c’est la même qui a été commandée plus tard, pourquoi est-elle marquée d’une plaque Allen alors que cette fonderie n’a jamais brillé par son expertise en fonte d’art ?

Si quelqu’un peut nous aider à résoudre cette énigme, nous sommes très intéressés.



1 )on a shield each side of the octagonal stem
–“PRESENTED / TO / THE TOWN OF / LIVERPOOL / BY / LIEUT.COL (Lieutenant Colonel) R.F. STEBLE / A.D.1877″

2) on a plate affixed to the end of the western arm

–” W.T ALLEN & CO. / LAMBETH HILL / UPPER THAMES STREET. / LONDON E.C.” (The E.C stands for East Central–a forerunner of today’s post codes.

Cavanagh cites The Liverpool Mercury (newspaper) of 7.2.1887 in describing the elements of the fountain. He goes on to state that the mythological elements are so exact copies as to be clearly attributed to Lienard.
He cites the founder of the Brewer Fountain as Fourment Houille & Cie / Val d’Osne WAG
Cavanagh himself quotes Adopt-a-Statue Casebook 1990:11 as his source for statement that there are similar castings in Geneva Lyon & Bordeaux.

Un de nos correspondants anglais écrit : “As I understand it, Cavanagh suggests that the Paris exposition fountain was bought by Brewer (he does not specify whether it is the original or a copy that is sent to Boston) , it appeared there in 1867. It is ten years later when the Steble fountain is unveiled in Liverpool.

Cavanagh quotes a Liverpool newspaper of the time attributing the design to Allen (the founder) it is only Cavanagh’s familiarity with both the Brewer and the Steble which disposes him to attribute the Steble to Lienard.

W. Cunliffe is essentially unknown apart from this mysterious Pevsner attribution which Cavanagh appears to mention only to discount it.

There is general agreement that though this family of fountains have the same base group of four figures at the base, the other elements vary somewhat.

Compléments : Steble Fountain by Paul Lienard, William Brown Street / Islington/ Commutation Row

The fountain sits to the west of The Wellington Memorial between William Brown Street and the now pedestrianised stub of Islington. It is an 1879 gift to Liverpool from Colonel R. F. Steble who was Mayor in 1874. A twin-tailed mermaid sits at its top and around the base are two pairs of lovers from Greek mythology. First are Poseidon & Amphritrite (Cavanagh names the male Neptune but that is the Roman equivalent to Poseidon). The second pair are named by Cavanagh as Acis & Galatea, Galatea has several forms and interpretations but the sea-nymph Galatea was the lover of Acis who was killed by Cyclops.

The Lienard original was produced for the Paris Exposition of 1867 after which it went to Boston, U.S.A. as The Brewer Fountain. Subsequent castings (with some variations) are to be found in Geneva, Lyon and Bordeaux as well as here in Liverpool.

Pevsner attributes the design to Cunliffe whilst Cavanagh, in acknowledging this, gives firm reasons for attribution to Lienard. The disappointing lack of power in the fountains was at first rectified by a steam pump situated in St. George’s Hall. However this disturbed trials in the court in the northern end of the hall and was ordered to be stopped. Eventually an electric pump replaced it.

Sources: The Public Sculpture Of Liverpool by Terry Cavanagh, Pevsner Architectural Guides: Liverpool by Joseph Sharples The Dictionary of Classical Mythology by Basil Blackwell.

Voir des photos sur ce site



Children sitting on the Steble Fountain in Liverpool city centre, c, 1890

by John Archer – He was born in Mount Pleasant, a poor, working-class area of  Liverpool. By the late 1800s this densely populated city included communities of sailors, labourers and trades people from diverse backgrounds including Irish, Jewish and Caribbean. Archer would have been very aware of the problems caused by urban poverty and overcrowded living conditions. This photograph includes a black boy amongst the group of barefoot children.
When Archer became Mayor of Battersea in 1913 and people wondered where he came from, he said:

“I was born in a little, obscure village in England that maybe you have never heard of – Liverpool. I am a Lancastrian bred and born.”


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