Barrans Fountain at Roundhay Park: The lavish drinking fountain gifted to the people of Leeds by the man who brought them Roundhay Park

Roundhay Park is one of the biggest public spaces in Europe, covering more than 700 acres of lawns, woodland, lakes and gardens.

According to the owners, Leeds City Council, almost one million people visit the park every year.

One of its most photographed features is Barrans Fountain, an imposing classical rotunda with eight Corinthian columns on a pedestal supporting a stone dome.

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Alternating between the columns are pink marble fountain bowls on the outside and fluted bowls inside. It is named after two-times Lord Mayor of Leeds Sir John Barran.

Barrans Fountain in Roundhay ParkBarrans Fountain in Roundhay Park
Barrans Fountain in Roundhay Park

A Londoner, Barran had set up a small clothing factory in Alfred Street, off Boar Lane, and developed a tool called a band knife to speed up the mass production of garments by cutting numerous layers of cloth at once.

With a sewing machine newly invented in the USA by Isaac Singer, Barran created a revolution in off-the-peg clothing manufacturing and made a huge fortune.

In 1871 the large country estate of Roundhay on the north side of Leeds was put up for sale.

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It had been a medieval hunting ground and was so-named because the landowners had established a round enclosure or “hay” to keep their deer in and poachers out.

At that time the city council had a legal limit on the amount it could spend on land acquisitions, and Barran put together a group to buy it for £139,000. He then used creative accounting methods for the council to repay the purchase price.

The park was opened to the public in 1872 with a ceremony attended by an estimated 100,000 people.

In 1882 Barran commissioned and paid for the drinking fountain that bears his name as a gift to the park. In recent years restoration work has been carried out with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

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