Finding the Fountain

A perfect, bright London afternoon in February saw me leading what I was calling ‘a one-off repeat performance’ of The Fountain in the Forest guided walk, in aid of the Resonance FM fundraiser 2019. The walk took in locations from the novel, from Queen Square and the former offices of Faber and Faber, to Lamb’s Conduit Street and the historic Holborn Library, via the Great Ormond Street site of Wyndham Lewis’s Rebel Art Centre of 1914. The walk was interspersed with readings from the novel, anecdotes, and local history.

We also tried to divine the exact location of Sir William Lamb’s conduit, after which – of course – Lamb’s Conduit Street is named. Lamb dammed the Fleet River and built a cistern from which open wooden pipes carried fresh water to Snow Hill in the City of London. Additionally, at or near the cistern itself was a pump or fountain from which local households could draw water. Lamb supplied 120 buckets to local women for this purpose.

A map of 1752 shows the exact location of this fountain, a few feet north of the stable yard passage, between two buildings that once fronted onto Lamb’s Conduit Street itself. Those particular buildings are long gone, but the passage remains. I was stunned to discover that this is now the site of the popular and bustling Italian restaurant Ciao Bella!, so it is still a celebrated watering hole and gathering place, and the site of many a Faber dinner. Astonishing!

Since Friday, a number of people have got in touch to ask if or when I’ll be doing the walk again. And I would love to do so if possible, so watch this space. As ever, if you’d like to be notified of any future walks or other gigs, do please sign up to receive invites to my launches and events.

Thank you to Bronac Ferran for sending through these great photos.

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