“King's College Cambridge Founder's Fountain” by H. H. Armstead
King's College Cambridge Founder's Fountain

King's College Cambridge Founder's Fountain by H. H. Armstead (1828-1905). 1874-79. Bronze figures on Portland stone, with granite steps below, and some concrete. Front Court, King's College. Thank you to the very helpful King's College Archive Centre for providing information about the fountain. Photograph and text Jacqueline Banerjee. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Every part of Armstead's fountain has some meaning. At the top stands the founder of King's College, Henry VI, wearing his royal robes and offering the royal charter. Seated below him on the left is the bronze figure of Religion, holding a model of the chapel, which rests on a Bible. Rather curiously, this figure faces away from the chapel itself. On the right is another seated bronze figure, Philosophy, facing the chapel and studying an open scroll. She has a celestial globe beside her, and a staff of Aesulapius, the Greek physician. The small figure in the middle is a bronze statue of a boy against a shell background, with two spouting dolphins (a favourite Victorian motif, cf. Munro's Boy with Dolphin fountain in Hyde Park, of 1863), and this is echoed on the other side of the fountain as well. The shields carved on the stone below the seated figures are those of King's College and Eton College. Here, Armstead alludes to the early days of the college: Henry stipulated that King's scholars be drawn from Eton, which he had founded just previously.

The "Cambridge 2000: Gallery" site describes the work as "Not terribly exciting, especially since is too far away in the middle of the lawn to even see properly." But the scale is entirely appropriate. As Nikolaus Pevsner says, it is "not too big in size to distract attention from the major sights" (95). Moreover, the front court of the college makes a truly splendid backdrop for it. This is the eighteenth-century Gibbs' (or Fellows') Building, a Hawksmoor design modified” by James Gibbs, and built in white Portland stone with an "elaborately pedimented central arch" (Taylor 12).

Related Material


"Cambridge 2000: Gallery: Front Court: Fountain" Viewed 29 June 2008.

Pevsner, Nikolaus. The Buildings of England: Cambridgeshire. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2nd ed. 1970.

Taylor, Kevin. Central Cambridge: A Guide to the University and Colleges. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Content last modified 5 August 2008

Reformatted 16 March 2015