The fountain was Sophia Gardens' best known feature and it was pictured in many postcards from the early 1900s. It was placed along a path leading east from the main north-south walk, approximately 90 metres from the south entrance.
Quoting from the Cardiff Times of the 25th June 1859, A. A. Pettigrew wrote that, 'On the 20th September 1859, "The Marchioness of Bute visited the gardens for the first time, and before leaving gave instructions to erect a handsome fountain on a site fixed upon by her Ladyship". This was probably her only visit, for she died on the 28th December following.'
The fountain was duly built and its opening was described in the Cardiff Times as follows: The handsome fountain recently erected in the above gardens by the Marquis of Bute, commenced playing for the first time, on Thursday afternoon [3rd August 1860]. A number of ladies and gentlemen were present, while the Militia band greatly enhanced the pleasure on the occasion, by playing an excellent programme, in their usual good style.
A report in the Evening Express in 1894 reported that the gardens had been neglected, sitting accomodation had almost disappeared and the fountain never played. The fountain bowl was reportedly filled with gravel and a few inches of dirty water.
The condition of the fountain was the subject of a letter printed in the Evening Express newspaper in August 1903, the writer being concerned about the safety of the structure: It appears to be in imminent danger of toppling over. The large fountain itself rests upon a stone plinth, which in turn rests upon what was at one time a firm base built of brick, but now the frosts and rains of many winters have caused this brick base to perish very much - so much so on one side that the stone plinth rests on nothing. It might fall at a time when someone may be near, and, perhaps, cause death or serious injury. The Corporation might also be invited to supply spray water to this fountain for a couple of hours each warm day in the summer. The danger of children falling into the fountain basin when full might be avoided by placing around the fountain a vertical railing. If this were done it would then become once again, as in years gone by, a thing of beauty.
The fountain was shown on successive Ordnance Survey maps from 1880 to 1940 inclusive and the 1954 map showed the Pavilion as occupying the space.
By the early 1950s the fountain had been removed, and that section of the Gardens was remodelled for the construction of a pavilion for the 1951 Festival of Britain. In 1982, following a heavy snow fall on the night of 9th January, the roof of the pavilion collapsed, and the building was subsequently demolished. The Sophia Gardens car park now occupies this space.
Sources of Information