Wednesday, 4 August 2010

The Mazda Fountain

According to the "The Encyclopaedia of Brighton" this fountain was donated to Brighton in 1930 by the Thompson-Houston company following an exhibition. Presumably  this might have been the British Empire Exhibition in 1925.  'Mazda' was first used as a trade name in 1909, in the US, by the Shelby Electric Co. to promote its tungsten-filament electric light bulbs. The British Thompson Houston Co. was a subsidiary of General Electric which purchased Shelby Electric and so inherited the name Mazda.

The fountain was clearly designed to impress with its technical virtuosity rather than the beauty of its construction. The basin itself is quite ugly but it originally incorporated two working mechanisms; one producing the leaping jets and one producing ever-changing coloured lighting which illuminated the jets from below.

The fountain action is pleasing to watch even without the lighting but when in full operation after dusk the effect was quite stunning. The fountain survived the war but after a few years fell into disrepair and was not reactivated until October 1987. Eventually however it failed again and the latest reactivation is due, apparently, to the voluntary efforts of a private citizen. It would be good if he could be given due credit for his achievement. The basin and surrounding area is now looking cared-for.

Electricity and water do not make easy bed-fellows and it is perhaps surprisng that a device designed for use in an exhibition 80 years ago is still operating at all. But it would still be nice to hope that one day the lighting will be restored . . .


  1. And what about the Tardis? The little shack on the street by the fountain... is that the control console?

    It was always called the Tardis by me and my brother when we walked past with mum when we were little.

  2. yes it is the electrical control box for the fountain, and has been maintained by the same chap since the 1987 restoration!

  3. This fountain has played a great part during my life in Brighton. As a meeting place,a place to say goodbye,a place to meet friends and discuss life and more recently as a place to sit in the sun and rest my bones. I should hate to think that this piece of history should be allowed to decay and rot and eventually go the same way as the West Pier.


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