Dolphins of Brighton West Pier
Print size A1, 59.4 x 84.1 cm
The first sketches were drafted in November 2017 in the coast of Taormina, Sicily. Later in the the year in Genissac near Bordeaux by the river Dordogne further work was produced. Further stages of the project occurred in September 2018 near Barmouth in Wales by the Afon Mawddach Stuary. The final image was staged in Brighton in my studio. Water is a constant presence in this journey; a continuous fountain of inspiration.
A pair of dolphins appear in the Brighton Coat of Arms. These were adopted by the Commissioners on Brighton, the local Government Body, in the early 19th Century. They feature on many of the City’s buildings and municipal facilities, from the station to the Dome, mosaics on the Town Hall floor, and on lamp posts.
The two dolphins in the Coat of Arms have a lengthy history in the town of Brighton although the origins cannot be traced easily now.
The Commissioners of Brighton, the local government body during the first half of the 19th century, used two dolphins in their seal. It is now a matter of speculation whether the dolphins were adopted because of the town’s association with the sea or because the commissioners had adopted the emblem of one of the leading families in the town. Both the Scrase family, who were associated with the Manor of Brighton and represented amongst the Commissioners, and the Lashmar family, one of whose members was High Constable in 1799, bore dolphins on their Coat of Arms.
(As issued by the College of Heralds 1897 and extracted from Brighton Council website)
In 16 September 1893 a line of forty-one cast-iron lamp-standards with ornamental mouldings, each 28 feet high and standing 130 feet apart, were inaugurated by the mayoress, Miss Ewart, along the King’s Road; a tablet to commemorate the event may still be seen on the standard by the West Pier.
(excerpt from Mybrightonandhove website)
The Victoria Fountain is located in the centre of the southern enclosure of the Old Steine Gardens. The fountain is thirty-two feet in height and includes a large, cast-iron pool with a rim decorated with egg-and-dart mouldings. Originally, the pool was filled with water lilies and goldfish. Sarsen stones in the centre of the pool were first found in the Steine by workers digging a trench in 1823. The sandstone blocks support three intertwined dolphins, upon which rests a shallow, cast-iron basin. Above this are two columns with an additional basin.
The fountain owes its existence to the efforts of John Cordy Burrows. After the commissioners of the town of Brighton decided against erecting a fountain to commemorate Queen Victoria’s accession to the throne in 1837, Burrows placed a private commission with British architect Amon Henry Wilds. The project was financed by Burrows and a public subscription, as well as the proceeds of a bazaar, concert, and night at the theatre.
The dolphins were sculpted by William Pepper (1806–1887), who was from a Brighton family of wood carvers and sculptors. The castings were made by the Eagle Foundry on Gloucester Road in Brighton. The foundry was owned by partners John Yearsley and Robert Williams. Their firm also installed the fountain.
The Victoria Fountain was inaugurated on 25 May 1846 in celebration of the twenty-seventh birthday of Queen Victoria. The ceremony featured a royal salute fired from the pier head at noon, coordinated with the starting of the fountain. Music had been commissioned for the event, including “Fountain Quadrilles” by Charles Coote, the son-in-law of Burrows. Local businesses closed at 3 o’clock that afternoon. The day’s festivities concluded with fireworks.
The fountain soon became a local landmark, with prints available for purchase at local bookstores. It was protected as a Grade II listed structure on 13 October 1952.A Grade II structure is felt to be nationally important and of special interest.
Restoration of the fountain commenced in 1990, and was completed before the 1995 visit of the Prince of Wales. Prince Charles unveiled a plaque commemorating the restoration of the fountain. The plaque adjacent to the south side of the fountain reads: “To Commemorate The Visit Of H.R.H. The Prince of Wales President Of The Fountain Society On 25th May 1995 To Mark The Restoration Of The Victoria Fountain With Funding By Brighton Council And Grant Aid From English Heritage.”
Dolphins have a fascination that has captivated every civilisation. They are a recurrent theme associated to the mystery and attraction of the sea.
Thank you for your interest. This artwork is displayed for sale in Leo Frames. 70 North Rd, Brighton BN1 1YD.