Restoration Work Begins on Joseph Toynbee Fountain

Nineteenth century structure will provide drinking water when project finishes

Mongo Bolili (left) and his victim Paul Dalton (right)

The historic Joseph Toynbee fountain in Wimbledon is being restored to working order.

A project to return the 19th century monument on Belvedere Grove to full functionality began this month. The fountain has not worked for decades but, when the work which is funded by a £10,000 grant by the Heritage of London Trust (HOLT) is complete, it will supply clean drinking water.

The Joseph Toynbee drinking fountain was erected in 1868 and is made of Portland stone and will be repaired with new taps, new piping and the stonework will be cleaned and revived. It will have a new concrete foundation to stabilise it and will be up and running later this summer. There are over 100 listed drinking fountains in the Greater London area but the vast majority are not working. HOLT has been helping restore London’s historic drinking fountains across the city, and has ten fountains currently in the process of being restored.

Merton Council is managing the project and will make up any shortfall of funds with money from the Community Infrastructure Levy which is paid by developers seeking planning permission.

As part of HOLT’s Proud Places programme, local secondary school pupils from Ursuline High School visited the Joseph Toynbee fountain before work started to find out about Joseph Toynbee and his work and contribution to Wimbledon. They will also get a chance to see the stonemasons at work.

The fountain was originally donated by pioneering ear surgeon Joseph Toynbee (1815 – 1866) who is the father of the philosopher and economist Arnold Toynbee and the grandfather of the historian of the same name. Polly Toynbee, Guardian journalist, is his great-great granddaughter.

Joseph Toynbee rose to lead the first ear and throat disease department at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington (during which he was responsible for syringing Queen Victoria’s ears). During his lifetime is said to have dissected two thousand human ears. He became one of the first fellows of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Toynbee moved to Wimbledon in 1854 and became interested in the local history of the area, strongly opposing Earl Spencer’s plan to enclose the land which was later to become Wimbledon Common and founding the Metropolitan Association for Improving the Dwellings of the Working Classes. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Wimbledon Society. Toynbee died from accidental inhalation of chloroform as part of an experiment on managing ear pain, in 1866.

Girls from Ursuline High School watch the new foundation being laid

Dr Nicola Stacey, Director of HOLT, said, “We’re so glad that this fountain is being restored – both for local people and the many Wimbledon visitors every year. Joseph Toynbee was a pioneering Victorian surgeon and a philanthropist who made an important contribution to the lives and people of Wimbledon. The fountain will have a wonderfully positive impact on the surrounding community once it’s up and running again.”

Councillor Eleanor Stringer, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Civic Pride, said, “We are delighted to deliver the restoration of the Joseph Toynbee fountain back to its original function. Residents are rightly proud of our borough’s rich heritage, which is embedded in all parts of Merton, from east to west. By allocating CIL funds to this restoration, we’re using money generated from new developments to improve the public realm, and keep our treasured heritage alive.”

HOLT has also launched a project to restore the Athenian Fountain on Parkside in Wimbledon, offering a grant of £10,000 for its restoration with drinking water. Work is hoped to start on this second fountain project in the autumn.


Like Reading Articles Like This? Help Us Produce More

This site remains committed to providing local community news and public interest journalism.

Articles such as the one above are integral to what we do. We aim to feature as much as possible on local societies, charities based in the area, fundraising efforts by residents, community-based initiatives and even helping people find missing pets.

We've always done that and won't be changing, in fact we'd like to do more.

However, the readership that these stories generates is often below that needed to cover the cost of producing them. Our financial resources are limited and the local media environment is intensely competitive so there is a constraint on what we can do.

We are therefore asking our readers to consider offering financial support to these efforts. Any money given will help support community and public interest news and the expansion of our coverage in this area.

A suggested monthly payment is £8 but we would be grateful for any amount for instance if you think this site offers the equivalent value of a subscription to a daily printed newspaper you may wish to consider £20 per month. If neither of these amounts is suitable for you then contact and we can set up an alternative. All payments are made through a secure web site.

One-off donations are also appreciated. Choose The Amount You Wish To Contribute.

If you do support us in this way we'd be interested to hear what kind of articles you would like to see more of on the site – send your suggestions to the editor.

For businesses we offer the chance to be a corporate sponsor of community content on the site. For £30 plus VAT per month you will be the designated sponsor of at least one article a month with your logo appearing if supplied. If there is a specific community group or initiative you'd like to support we can make sure your sponsorship is featured on related content for a one off payment of £50 plus VAT. All payments are made through a secure web site.

July 18, 2022