Toynbee Fountain

Restoration of the fountain

This Gothic fountain in a prominent position at a Wimbledon crossroads commemorates Joseph Toynbee (1815- 1866), Victorian aural surgeon and philanthropist, father of the philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee (d. 1883), grandfather of the historian Arnold Toynbee (d. 1975) and great-great grandfather of Polly Toynbee, Guardian journalist. One of fifteen children, Joseph Toynbee rose to lead the first ear and throat disease department at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington (during which he was responsible for syringing Queen Victoria’s ears). During his lifetime is said to have dissected two thousand human ears. He became one of the first fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons. He moved to Wimbledon in 1854 and became interested in the local history of the area, strongly opposing Earl Spencer’s plan to enclose the land which was later to become Wimbledon Common and founding the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Working Classes.

Altogether in overall good condition, the fountain is leaning towards the street, and is not working. There is evidence of surface erosion throughout, some loss of detail and hairline cracks. The fountain has been previously repaired with cementitious mortar. The semi-circular drinking bowls are in overall good condition and lined with lead. The original bronze taps, cup fixing bolts and drainage covers remain in place, although the push button mechanism is missing on two of the three taps. The steel access hatch remains in position but has suffered from irreversible corrosion. Keys are no longer available. The granite base and steps are in good condition, but will require repositioning and a full repoint. The dog bowl sits level with the ground and is filled with debris.

Restoration will involve cleaning, poulticing, then a complete dismantling of the fountain and preparation off site, removal of old plumbing, creation of a new concrete foundation, return and re-erection of the fountain, new clean water pipes and new taps

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