A Fountain Fit For A Tsar…?

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It might have been a protocol blunder of imperial proportions, but then it tells you much about the man almost responsible for it. And so it was that when the high-spending William Cavendish, 6th Duke of Devonshire, thought Tsar Nicholas would  visit his Chatsworth domain in 1844, he commissioned Joseph Paxton to build the world’s tallest fountain; this to outdo both Chatsworth’s existing Great Fountain (then the tallest in Britain) and the Tsar’s own grandest fountain at his Peterhof Palace in St. Petersburg. So: a back-handed sort of honouring, and I wonder how the Tsar would have taken this spectacle of extravagant one-upmanship: smiling through gritted teeth perhaps?

He anyway did not come, although the fountain was named ‘the Emperor’ to mark the non-occasion. The jet has been known to reach nearly 300 feet, although it was ‘turned down’ on the day I took this photo due to high wind.

For more about Chatsworth and a small family connection see my earlier post To Chatsworth and how Mary Ann went to the ball

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: fountains and sprinklers

28 thoughts on “A Fountain Fit For A Tsar…?

  1. Ah! Chatsworth was virtually our ‘back yard’ when we lived in Sheffield, and I miss it, so thanks for this visit. I have however never seen that jet doing anything remarkable.

    1. A fair-weather fountain, methinks. It is a lovely spot. Though have a resistance to outrageous display as financed by many generations of my farming and leadmining ancestors.

      1. Well, Mak, I agree that a fountain can be very pleasing and pretty harmless. But then who was paying for the extravagance – the rents from his tenant farmers and a significantly valuable cut of smallholder lead miners’ very dangerous delving pursuits.

  2. I am smiling at the tsar’s non-visit. At least England has lots of water, though I’m sure the pump must have been quite an extravagance. I agree with some of the “men” comments. My former (male) boss worded the phenomenon crudely when he called the upmanship men use to show their authority or superiority over each other “weenie wagging.” Appropriate that the duke competed over a spurt of water. Great picture – great story, Tish

  3. I suppose the fountain was an interesting investment, even without the arrival of the Tsar. That’s one heck of a tall spout of water. I bet with even a mild breeze, everyone gets wet. Nice in the summer, maybe not so great in winter. 💦

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