A Brief History of the Laura Place Fountain
18 July 2019
At the end of Great Pulteney Street, just before you cross Pulteney Bridge and enter the Bath’s city centre, there is a grand fountain sitting in the middle of an irregular quadrangle of houses. It’s the Laura Place fountain, and looks in many ways as if it has been there for as long as the grand houses around it which were built between 1788 and 1794. It is however, a somewhat later addition. And not what was originally intended for the space either.
In 1805, proposals were made to erect a grand column (much like Nelson’s Column in London) in the centre of the quadrangle. This column, like the London column, would also commemorate Nelson and his success (and death) at the Battle of Trafalgar. It was never completed however, as shortly after construction of the column began, the residents realised that the finished column would dwarf the grand houses around it and petitioned for construction to cease. The idea was to complement the surrounding architecture and make it appear grand, not dwarf it and pale it into insignificance by being 50% taller than the houses around it.
It wasn’t the only planned column for Laura Place though. In 1832 a new plan was put forward for a “Reform pillar” to be put on the empty central plinth of Laura Place. In the end this also did not happen, and it wasn’t until 1877 that the plinth received the fountain which it has now.
The purpose of the fountain was to commemorate the centenary of Bath and Western Counties Agricultural Society. It received its current Grade II listed building heritage status in 1972 and has, over the years, seen a fair few repairs thanks incidents such as cars hitting the fountain.
On a historical side note, if you were wondering who the Laura who Laura Place is named after was, it might be of interest to find out that it was Henrietta Laura Pulteney, Sir William Pulteney’s daughter (the same Sir William who commissioned architect Robert Adam to design and oversee the building of the iconic Pulteney Bridge). It was Henrietta Laura Pulteney who laid the foundation stone for Laura Place on March the 31st1788, and it was she who inherited the Pulteney estate in 1792 after her father’s death. The nearby locations of Henrietta Street and Henrietta Park are also named after her.
In next weeks’ blog post we’ll be taking a look at the life of this great lady who left her good mark, and not just her name, on the city of Bath.