Picture Post: Fountain still making a splash at Castle Howard

PIC: James Hardisty
PIC: James Hardisty
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Long before Colin Firth was causing temperatures to rise as Mr Darcy emerging from the lake, Castle Howard was providing the watery backdrop for another memorable moment of television.

Characters from Brideshead Revisited stripped off for a dip in the estate’s 150-year-old Atlas Fountain, a scene watched by millions of loyal viewers of the series which first aired back in 1981.

In fact, when filmmakers decided to make a big screen version of Evelyn Waugh’s classic novel about love, religion, class and society in 2008, the fountain was one of the reasons why they felt compelled to return to the North Yorkshire estate.

However 20 years on, the water feature wasn’t in such a good state.

Icy frosts during what was Britain’s coldest spell had caused cracks to appear in the ageing stone. The plummeting temperatures had also caused several delicate sections, including hand-carved scallop shells and ornate fish scales to simply shear off.

Restoration experts from the Earth, Stone and Lime Company in Malton were called in, painstakingly retouching the stonework, cleaning away much of the dirt and moss and re-gilding part of the fountain, which had originally been commissioned by the 7th Earl of Carlisle in 1850.

The £30,000 project, which ensured the fountain, carved from Portland stone, was both watertight and weather-resistant, was completed in 2011.

It is named after Atlas, who in the myths of Ancient Greece was destined to support the heavens upon his shoulders. He is the main focal point of the fountain and the surrounding Tritons, or Greek sea gods, were carved by the sculptor John Thomas.

Some of the pieces were transported by railway from London and the fountain, and its 40ft jets of water is fed by a reservoir at nearby Ray Wood, were first switched on in 1853.

Sitting at the centre of the estate’s South Parterre, the fountain, which is visible from much of the house, has remained the centrepiece of the grounds ever since.

Technical details: Nikon D3s, 70-200mm lens, 1/250s @ f8, ISO 1EV under 200.