Water flows no more but history runs deep
A historic drinking fountain in Hythe’s Red Lion Square is to receive a dramatic overhaul. looks back at its life in the town, with the help of local historian Jenny Round Denise Rayner
HUNDREDS of people walk past Hythe’s old drinking fountain every day, perhaps even chucking in some rubbish, with little regard to how it got there.
The Victorian fountain in Red Lion Square, which no longer supplies water, is a dull brown colour and often littered with rubbish, but very few people know the history behind the elaborate structure.
Thomas Judge was elected Mayor of Hythe in 1885. A respected businessman, he had a watchmakers and silversmiths shop in the High Street, in the premises that later became Newman’s furniture store.
He decided to commemorate his mayoralty by creating a muchneeded drinking fountain for the town and a site was offered at the side of a house next to the Town Hall, belonging to Alderman Dr Charles Fagge.
The 6ft bronze feature was marked with the words: “He opened the rock and the waters gushed out; they ran out in dry places like a river.”
The fountain was unveiled by Lady Watkin, wife of the town’s MP Sir Edward Watkin, on May 12, 1886. That same day Sir Edward, who had represented the people of Hythe since 1874, was honoured for his work and made a Freeman of the Borough.
When unveiling the fountain Lady Watkin took a drink of water from the iron cup and thanked Thomas Judge for the generous gesture.
Just two weeks later the mayor fell ill. While on his way to holiday in Paris he was forced to turn back at Boulogne because of his worsening condition.
Thomas Judge died on July 6, 1886 at the age of 38. The cause of death was recorded as an aneurism of the heart.
Blinds were drawn in private homes and flags were flown at half mast to mark his death and the drinking fountain became a memorial to him.
Following his death a debate surfaced surrounding the ownership of the fountain. Dr Fagge insisted the land belonged to him, however some councillors said it had been given to the town. No decision was reached and Dr Fagge resigned from the council in November and died the following March aged 85.
His house, with the fountain intact, was sold in September 1888. It was taken over by the London and County Bank and the drinking fountain remained in place for 24 years.
However, in 1911 the manager of the London County and Westminster Bank, as it had become, asked Hythe Town Council to remove it because the house was to be pulled down and another bank built in its place; the NatWest is still there today.
The fountain was relocated in July 1913 to the wall surrounding Mackeson’s Brewery in Market Square, now Red Lion Square, and it continued to satisfy the thirst of the town’s people for a further 60 years.
The water was tested annually and the iron cup was removed in 1965 for hygiene reasons.
The brewery was bulldozed in 1973 and it was hotly debated what should replace it before finally, in 1980, applications for blocks of flats were approved.
The fountain still stands in the remaining wall of the brewery and will now be the subject a new look. Hythe artist David Hawthorn approached the Town Council to suggest the makeover. Councillors have agreed to pay for the paint and Mr Hawthorn will revamp the fountain for free.
Thomas Judge’s former shop taken in 1992
The inscription on the fountain
The drinking fountain can be seen below the overhanging tree, next to the Town Hall
Denise Maskell, Mayor of Hythe Cllr Neil Matthews, Dick Bushell and David Hawthorn with dog Pickles