Friday, July 14, 2017

The Emperor's Water Fountain

There is something majestic about a fountain, the sparkle, the cool mist on your cheek, the bubble mimicking a natural waterfall. But it wasn’t an eye toward nature that prompted the building of the Emperor Fountain at Chatsworth, home of the Dukes of Devonshire. It seems to have been a little old-fashioned one-upmanship.

William George Spencer Cavendish, the 6th Duke of Devonshire, had been notified that no less than Czar Nicholas I of Russia planned to visit his home in 1844. Devonshire is known as the Bachelor Duke, for he never married, causing quite a few ladies to sigh with regret. He had ascended to the title at the tender age of 21. An avid horticulturist, he made friends with the equally young Sir Joseph Paxton and convinced him to take the position of chief gardener at Chatsworth. The Duke wanted a fountain, and it was Paxton who conceived of a way to create a gravity-fed one along the Great House’s south face.
You see, the Czar had a fountain at Peterhof Palace. It’s still among the biggest tourist attractions in Russia. Big being the operative word—jets and cascades and gilded statues. Devonshire wanted one that would shoot even higher.

He got it.

The Emperor Fountain at Chatsworth sits at the northern end of the Canal Pond, surrounded by natural boulders. It has shot as high as 300 feet. (In contrast, the highest fountain at Peterhof only reaches 60 feet.) The power comes from water pressure, the water dropping from an artificial lake 350 feet above the house through a narrow iron pipe. Since 1893, the pressure has also been used to generate electricity for the house.

Although the Czar never did come to visit, Prince Wilhelm of Prussia did stop by and marvel. So should we.

Do I hear another item being added to a bucket list?

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