The Tortoise Fountain

Tortoise Fountain conservation

A unique structure

The Tortoise Fountain has two tiers, each with four features; the top with eponymous tortoises – although technically terrapins - and the second with lions' heads. The bottom basin boasts intricately carved Medusa heads forming three superimposed basins. Adjacent is a curved stretch of red brick and stone balustrade wall derived from the Borghese Balustrade.  The fountain, the stepped path, and the balustrade were originally installed for William Waldorf Astor – the eccentric American and passionate collector who lived at Cliveden from 1893 – 1906. The fountain was gravity fed with a water supply from the Clock Tower water tanks, passing down buried pipework, through the fountain and then running off down the hillside to the Thames below.  

Speeding up work 

The project aims to restore the fountains original splendour and artistic intention. The work will ensure that the fractured travertine rim on the bottom basin is made watertight and stability is secured. The fountains waterworks will also need repairing to allow flow to all the spouts, whilst the overflow system is relocated meaning the pipe will run down the hill without affecting the balustrade structure. The stonework joints will need closing and securing as tightly as possible making sure any cracks or gaps are sealed using material compatible with travertine. Finally the tank covers will be made safe for one person to comfortably lift and to blend sympathetically with the surrounding Breedon gravel.

Access to the fountain is reached from the Chapel down 172 yew tree lined steps. However, as the works commences, the fountain and the path to it will be closed. Come spring time however, when the project is due for completion, access will reopen and you’ll have a chance to see the fountain in full working order as well as the surrounding far reaching views along this magnificent stretch of the River Thames and countryside beyond.

A unique sculpture among Cliveden's vast outdoor collection
Tortoise Fountain close up
A unique sculpture among Cliveden's vast outdoor collection