Restoration of the Victoria Fountain, The Old Steine, Brighton

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This significant monument commemorated the 27th Birthday of Queen Victoria in 1846. Unfortunately, the asset had sustained considerable wear over time, and we were informed that it had previously undergone repairs throughout the years when required, by various other companies. The council wanted a full refurbishment of the fountain, ensuring a correct restoration to ensure the longevity of this important heritage monument. We were thrilled to be considered to work on such a fascinating project, share our unique welding process and help to restore this historic landmark to its former glory.

Overcoming Logistics for the Victoria Fountain Restoration

As impressive as the Sculptural Victoria Fountain is, its sheer enormity can be problematic from a logistical point of view. Fortunately, we have overcome many obstacles throughout the years working on unconventional large-scale landmarks. After first discussing the project and the predicted time scale with the client, the removal of the Fountain from its location could begin. The unique welding process we have developed cannot be carried out on-site, so we needed to carefully remove and transport the Fountain to our facility in Leicestershire.

To do this, a clear plan was outlined with the relevant parties such as the local council and even traffic control, as specialised equipment and vehicles were needed to safely access the area. Safe diversions were created to prevent the public from being at risk whilst the removal and later re-installation took place. Good communication in this part of the process helped the project enormously by keeping the schedule of work on track and running smoothly.

The client highlighted an issue with the water flow and from our initial visit, we were able to identify that the Fountain wasn’t sitting on a level base, likely to be caused by ground movement due to weather conditions over the years. It wasn’t a surprise to us to find corrosion present too which would be a large contributor to the uneven flow of water. Due to the coastal location of the fountain, sulphur is present in the atmosphere increasing the rate of corrosion significantly compared to other inland locations away from the salty sea air.

To remove the Fountain, we used a mobile crane to lift each section carefully, this took a full day to complete. The crane transferred each section of the Fountain onto a registered wide-load vehicle which then carefully transported it to Leicestershire. Once the Fountain was back at our facility and ready for a detailed inspection, ground works could begin at the coastal site to create a new level base in preparation for us to return the fully restored fountain.

Enhancing the Victoria Fountain’s Longevity

We planned to dismantle the fountain to test and repair each section and completely piece back together the structure avoiding any future leaks.

The corrosion caused by the salty atmosphere had to be considered when finding the appropriate protective paint solutions in the final restoration stage and can be a great preventive solution to corrosion in the future.

The Victoria Fountain has been holding a large body of water for numerous years and solutions to prevent water from escaping or settling in between layers of each cast iron section had to be mindfully discussed, creating preventative repairs that would avoid unnecessary corrosion in the future.

Each section of the fountain was covered in layers of historic leaded paint which all needed to be safely removed and disposed of correctly following the present-day safety guidelines. We had to dismantle the petal-shaped sections that make up the bowl like structure from the main body of the fountain, which was a tough task but completely necessary to repair the fountain correctly and thoroughly. This process unearthed previously used unsuitable bonding materials, from repairs made in more recent years to try and solve problems with the fountain leaking. These unsuitable repairs were removed so that the team could begin any welding repairs to restore the strength and structure of the sectional pieces.

Painstaking Detail in Honoring the Victoria Fountain’s Original Design

Being of such historical significance, attention to detail is of great importance when honouring the original design of an asset like the Victoria Fountain. A significant amount of time and effort was taken to correctly match the desired paint colours in keeping with the era that it was created and unveiled to Queen Victoria in the early 19th century. Looking back into the archives finding information from paint specification documents and design illustrations was not only extremely helpful but so interesting in this part of the process. A beautiful rich Olive Green was the overall colour of the fountain and details were highlighted in metallic gold which perfectly represents the Victorian taste in design at that time.

The final coat of Olive Green was applied after a mid-coat of Juniper Green. This ensured a rich coverage over the entire asset. The intricate details were hand-painted by our in-house creative artist. Pearlescent gold paint was used to highlight the elaborate fins and eyes of the trio of exotic fish that hold the large-scale bowls above them, featuring scalloped edges to the rims which have also been highlighted in shimmering gold accents. A column and an urn-shaped pedestal have floral swags around the perimeters and boughs of leaves and blooms shine bright in gold at the very top of the sculptural fountain. The large bowl situated at the base of the fountain has a ‘rope like’ design adorning the rim which was also highlighted in gold. Small scale exotic fish cameos are featured around the underbelly of the fountain bowls. The reflection of the smaller scale fish cameos will bounce gold reflections as the sunlight catches the water spouting from their mouths.

Due to the importance of the protective nature of these paint finishes. It was essential for us to adhere to the specified paint drying times to ensure the longevity of the finish, and to prevent corrosion for as long as possible, taking into consideration the fact this asset constantly holds a large body of water and its harsh coastal location. A total of five layers of paint were applied with 16 hours of drying time in between coats to ensure the correct hardening of each layer. The confidence we have in our paint finishes puts our clients’ minds at ease when recommending preventative solutions that will stand the test of time.

Reinstating the Victoria Fountain to its Coastal Location

The final stage of this large project was re-installation day, a momentous time after weeks of dedicated work by the whole team. Again, specialist vehicles were needed to assist with the return of the newly restored fountain back to its coastal home. On returning to the Brighton site, levelling grounds work has been completed which complemented our re-installation process and improved the functionality of the Fountains water flow.

The tricky task of reassembling the heavy interlocking segments of the fountain took time but this will prevent leaks from returning which was a priority for the client. Our workmanship will prevent the fountains’ structure from getting waterlogged as it’s suffered from in recent years. Our unique process, which never adds dissimilar or inferior materials to our welding repairs, is the best preventative solution. A trained electrician appointed by the current custodians of The Victoria Fountain stepped in at this point, responsible for reconnecting the water feature element and function.

Once the water is reintroduced and the feature is flowing correctly our team can return to Brighton for a final time to examine the overall finish of the asset. An ideal opportunity to evaluate if any damage has occurred during transportation or the reinstall process. If any minor corrections are needed to the paint this can take place at this point.

On completion a moment to stand back and admire the finished project in all its glory must be taken, although this project required a lot of patience and teamwork it’s been another great experience to add to our portfolio of Heritage Restorations it’s now time to hand over The Victoria Fountain back to the people of Brighton who can be proud of it looking splendid and functioning beautifully for another 100 years and more!