Historic England may list ‘bucket fountain’ as developer seeks planning delay

Elliot Group wants to create a new boutique hotel and public realm at Beetham Plaza but has met with local opposition over plans to move the famous installation. Tony McDonough reports

Bucket fountain
Richard Huws’s ‘bucket fountain’ in Beetham Plaza. Picture by Tony McDonough


Developer Elliot Group has asked Liverpool Council to hold back from registering the planning application for its £15m redevelopment of Beetham Plaza amid an Historic England assessment of the square’s famous ‘bucket fountain’.

Elliot wants to create a new boutique hotel and public realm at Beetham Plaza which is close to Brunswick Street and fronts onto the Strand.

It currently incorporates Richard Huws’s unique water installation which was commissioned by Merseyside Civic Society in 1962 and the developer has offered to foot the bill to move the fountain to a new location in the city.

However, a number of people have objected to the installation being moved. They include local Labour councillor Nick Small who has highlighted the issue in the run up to this week’s local elections.

Special merit

Now Historic England is considering whether the structure should be listed as being of ‘special merit’ and Elliot would prefer to hold off submitting a detailed planning application until that assessment is complete so it can incorporate the decision into its plans.

If listing is approved then Elliot Group has the option of submitting supplementary documentation in support of the fountain’s re-siting prior to the planning application’s formal registration.

Founder Elliot Lawless said: “We’re proud to own such a wonderful piece of Liverpool heritage and we’ve been clear that we want to ensure it continues to entertain and delight locals and visitors alike.

“Our issue has always been that it’s tucked away.  We’d like it to become a ‘must Instagram’ attraction for the city, but more seagulls find it each day than tourists and residents. If we were to re-site it then more people could enjoy its wonderful engineering.”

Elliot Group
How a new hotel at Liverpool’s Beetham Plaza would look


Tryweryn scheme

The fountain was commissioned from sculptor Richard Huws in 1962 by Merseyside Civic Society to commemorate the start of the controversial Tryweryn Water Scheme, which was to provide drinking water to Liverpool but which led to the displacement of a voiceless Welsh-speaking community. 

In all 70 residents lost their homes, livelihoods and places of worship prior to the flooding of their village, Capel Celyn.  The original home for the fountain was intended to be at the junction of Bold Street and Hanover Street, but this was rejected by planners.

Two further sites were rejected before developers Thames Estates and Investments offered the newly-created plaza to the rear of a new office development on Goree as home. 

On the possible listing, Mr Lawless added: “In many ways we’d be pleased as it proves what a unique and special piece of sculpture it is. Beetham Plaza was the designer’s fourth choice location and we’d argue it deserves to be somewhere more prominent, as was the original intention.   

“Listing doesn’t preclude an item from being moved and we’d still consider pursuing this as we think it’s the best way of securing the fountain’s complete refurbishment whilst making it a more visible asset for the city.”

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