7 AUGUST 2004, Page 25

Fons et origo

From John Kenwonhy-Browne Sir: Pace Paul Johnson (And another thing, 31 July) and other critics, the primary meaning of 'fountain' is not jet, but a spring or source of water; Horace's fons Bandusiae, a modest spring, can still be seen at his Sabine farm. So, in this first meaning, which is in the OED in both the original and 1971 editions, the Diana Fountain is quite appropriately named.

As regards jet fountains, the new one at Stanway, said to rise 300 feet, must he a remarkable achievement but seems unlikely to be driven only by gravity. At Chatsworth, Joseph Paxton's Emperor Fountain is impressive enough today, even though it now plays at less than 100 feet. When he built it in 1844, Paxton harnessed an abundant water supply on the high East Moor, and by gravity alone it reached 269 feet and could play all day. At the Crystal Palace in 1856 things were less convenient: water was scarce, and water towers had to be built. The two great fountains apparently reached 250 feet, but they were turned on only once a week, and then for two hours at a time. At both Chatsworth and the Crystal Palace, the slightest wind would soak the surrounding garden and the visitors.

It is debatable whether a 3001t fountain in Kensington Gardens would be either beautiful or practical.

John Kenwonhy-Browne

London SW10