Tuesday, 13 April 2010

The folly of Ozymandias

A folly is a whimsical structure built to serve as a conversation piece, or to lend interest to a view, or maybe to commemorate a person or an event. A folly is not a bad thing, just extravagant and ... out there. Today, I bring you some minor follies, some over-blown structures that are in one’s face on turning a corner, or breasting a rise, In this era of economic rationalism and financial discipline, it is a joy to find structures so essentially ... useless.

Below Left: The Victor Chang memorial opposite St Vincent's Hospital in Darlinghurst
Below Right: Oxford Square near the intersection with Riley Street
The design for a cast-iron canopy drinking fountain was chosen from a Glaswegian catalogue by Mayor Renny in about 1870. Altogether, he had ten specifically forged for Sydney, complete with the coat of arms of the city at that time. Wherever they were originally located, many have been moved, and some ... lost. The book ends for this post show the canopy in Macquarie Place down at the Quay although it is missing its fountain, and looks a trifle naked. The only original location to still be graced with an ornate canopy fountain is Beare Park, in Elizabeth Bay.

Top: Gothic folly in Hyde Park
Below both: The Albert Square folly that is a traffic hazzard!
Then we come to the redoubtable John Frazer, who must have been a Methodist with a strong dash of wowser. He had a wholesale grocery store down on York Street and gave the council a thousand pounds in the 1880s to erect drinking fountains for the citizenry. A thousand pounds! If money doubles every seven years ... that is a lot of dollars! Two were constructed, a gothic style one in Hyde Park which had to be moved a couple of times but now leads down to Sydney Grammar School on College Street. The other, in the Italian-Renaissance style this time, should be moved as it stands in the middle of Albert Square at the head of Art Gallery Road. It is a danger to drink from and, anyway, the water mechanism is long gone. A folly of a folly, I hear you say. Move it, I say. Down into the Domain and put the water mechanism back in.


And finally, the memorial fountain to Lewis Wolfe Levy, a Member of the Legislative Council who died in 1888, erected in the Royal Botanic Gardens by his bereft family. This has four (four!) water fountains, one on each corner. They all work, and water spouts out the mouths of lions on the super-structure. Who was he? He was born in London in 1815, died in Sydney in 1885 and had 15 children – sufficient one might think. What did he do? A businessman, pastoralist and mercantilist, he became a Director of Prince Alfred Hospital and the Industrial Blind Institution, as well as the President of Macquarie Street Synagogue - a pillar of the establishment, in other words.


Middle ranking citizens, worried that their deeds would not suffice, needed a more permanent reminder of their existence. ‘The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Source: 'Water, water, everywhere' - City of Sydney

27 comments:

Multiple personalities.. said...

Such spectacular images! I love the canopied water fountains, I've never seen that before. You have a genius eye for composition, I love it! Thanks for stopping by, it was lovely to meet you! :-)

Dina said...

Voltaire said "The superfluous is very necessary."
Is that the same as folly?

Naturedigital said...

That is a great monument to photograph Julie.. And you show it at its best.. with your beautiful images..
Costas

Rob and Mandy said...

Spectacular, but a bit gloomy. I suppose folly is etymologically the right name for it

Clytie said...

Beautiful composition in your watery shots. I think some of them are aptly named "folly" while others might better be called "whimsical"?

TheChieftess said...

They have the most satisfactory usefulness of all...they're beautiful!!! In this time of square boxes for buildings, these minute pieces of architectural detail, beauty and charm are such a pleasure to find!!!

Tulsa Gentleman said...

What a fine post for today. Just the sort of thing one would expect from Flaneur. I always learn something from your blog.

cara said...

Keep the pavement dry? Those Victorian types were a queer breed.

J Bar said...

I didn't know about the one opposite St Vincent's Hospital, which is similar to the one on Oxford Square.

Regarding my Rookwood post. I wasn't that impressed by the exhibition, to be honest. I would not consider some of them to be art at all and others I found difficult to photograph. These were my only shots. I added a couple more to my post this morning. I'd be interested to see your impression and approach to the exhibition.
Sydney - City and Suburbs

Ann said...

I love these things, especially that big sandstone one near the Cathedral, its magnificent. Didn't realise there were so many.

Unknown Mami said...

It seems luxurious to drink from a covered drinking fountain!

Virginia said...

Oh Julie, similar to the wonderful fountains in Paris. You knew I'd think of that didn't you! This is a wonderful grouping you've shown us today and as always, so well done.
V

brattcat said...

If only I were the one going to Paris, Julie. It's my younger daughter who's going.

Bruce Caspersonn said...

You very cleverly avoided lots of people, well done!

Julie said...

*grin* ... I have this conversation with JBar, too ... usually I try to include people ... just did not work out with this one ... the better shots were the ones sans hoomans!

Piyush said...

Such lovely pictures and again a wonderful presentation Julie.

Jayne said...

Love them!
And the history behind them, of course ;)
Recently unearthed 2 book-end water fountains on a trek which tickled my curiosity on others throughout Melb and now you've cemented my resolve ;)

Jilly said...

Adore follies. These are spectaclar shots. So often, in the great gardens, they stand at the end of a vista.

Vicki said...

I love this series. I've never really payed attention to the water fountains. Time to look again.

Joan Elizabeth said...

I really enjoyed this post. I had no idea about the canopied fountains other than the 'traffic hazard' which I didn't know was a water fountain.

Great collection of images and as always excellent attention to the history and story behind them.

diane said...

Interesting follies and thanks for the info. I can't say that i remember seeing any of these when I have been in Sydney.I saw a doco about england tonight and they showed one of England's follies. So I'm all follied out.I like that word..folly,folly, folly.

Magpie said...

I so enjoy seeing all the beauty that still exists in the world. Wonderful pictures and great information.

Hilda said...

Such beautiful follies though! I like the "keep the pavement dry" warning too. ;)

lizziviggi said...

My goodness. What gorgeous drinking fountains! I don't think we have a single interesting one in my whole city... but as usual, you've inspired me to go look and see!

As for the head-butting, molting bighorn sheep, you're absolutely right-- they have long coats in the winter and shed them in the spring, usually with the aid of some helpfully placed rocks and trees to rub against.

Serge Cornillet said...

Sydney Eye the best site to visit Sydney trough your camera.
Nice.:D
Serge

Shelle said...

oh the memories...gosh it doesn't seem like 30 years when i see the photos. lovely!

hiszafer said...

I write a blog about memorial drinking fountains and would like permission to use your photos of the cast iron drinking fountains. I will, of course, credit and link back to your site. You can view my blog at http://memorialdrinkingfountains.wordpress.com