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Fountain reopening

Costello family and local dignitaries at restoration ceremony. Janet Langdon is pictured in the middle (red coat).

St Leonards landmark restored to former glory

A small piece of local heritage, with a claim to being the longest surviving one of its kind anywhere in the country, has been restored to its former glory. Toby Sargent walked along the front at St Leonards to take a look.

The drinking water fountain on the promenade at St Leonards is a fine and lovely thing. But in recent years, like so much of our built heritage in the UK, it had fallen into decline. So it’s good that now, thanks to a funding partnership between Hastings Borough Council and the descendants of James Castello, who gave the fountain to St Leonards back in 1908, it has been restored to its former glory.

James, who lived at 10 The Mount in a house named ‘Elliris’ – after his two daughters, Ellis and Iris – gave the fountain to the town as a memorial to his beloved wife Edith who had died the year before.

Castello family 600 wide

Judith Castello (centre) with Iris and Ellis

Ellis and Iris maintained the fountain during their lifetime but as the years went by, following their death, it became clear to the four grandchildren that serious restoration was needed to keep the fountain going. So they approached the council and agreed that the family would meet around half the cost of the specialist work required, if Hastings BC found the rest.

Janet Langdon, 76, who is James Castello’s youngest grandchild said:

“The family is delighted with the work that has been carried out on this drinking water fountain, which has been operational since my grandfather gave it to the town 108 years ago, and continues to be used by passing walkers, cyclists and dogs.

“Indeed, we believe it has provided drinking water continuously for longer than any other drinking water fountain in the country. Hastings Borough Council has been very supportive, and local stonemasons Burslem, have done a superb job of restoring it.”

Cllr Peter Chowney added:

“This has been a great project, and I am very pleased indeed that we were able to work in partnership with the Castello family to restore the fountain. It was good, too, to see all four of James’ grandchildren here, five of his six great grandchildren, and one of his five great great grandchildren.”

So there’s a touching history to the restoration of the fountain that harks back to a distant era when private philanthropy was an accepted way of giving something back to your community. These days, as public funding is squeezed ever harder and good causes become ever more competitive in their fundraising efforts, it’s nice to know that James Costello’s family stepped up to keep their distinguished grandfather and grandmother’s memories alive.

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Posted 11:37 Tuesday, Jun 21, 2016 In: Home Ground

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