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Chair’s Welcome

I am delighted as Chair of the Friends to welcome you to our website. Bushy Park and Home Park are two wonderful large green oases in the south west corner of London. Feeling wild, they are natural places with ancient histories, fascinating heritage and superb wildlife. Both are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) containing rare species. These are places to be enjoyed and conserved. Which is why the Friends exist, campaigning, supporting and protecting the parks, and enhancing visitors’ enjoyment with information, advice and guidance.

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Diana Fountain - naming controversy

Diana Fountain - naming controversy

Diana Fountain, NOT Arethusa

For an obscure reason, possibly following the installation of a troubled water construction named after Princess Diana in Hyde Park, The Royal Parks have now chosen to refer to the statue in Bushy Park as ‘Arethusa’.

According to The Friends, this is a mistake. There is clear evidence from the original invoice to the king in 1637, right up to the present day, that the statue has always been called Diana. The statue, together with the fountain it rests on are commonly referred to as the Diana fountain. Possibly the fact that Arethusa is another word for fountain has confused The Royal Parks.

Any enquiry to The Royal Parks as to the reason or evidence for this new name has been ignored. No historical reference has been forthcoming.

Read the following article by Pieter Morpurgo, Chairman, The Friends of Bushy & Home Parks.

The statue and fountain known as the Diana Fountain was designed by the French sculptor, Hubert Le Sueur for Charles I. He submitted an invoice in 1637 for a ‘great Diana’ for £200. The assumption has to be that this was the statue which was placed on a fountain, also designed by Le Sueur three years previously.

The statue and fountain were set in the garden of Henrietta Maria at the royal residence of Somerset House. Diana (Greek: Artemis) was in the first rank of both Greek and Roman gods and was an appropriate subject for a Queen’s garden. It is interesting that the Walpole Papers reveal that the King consistently refused to pay the full amount for the several works carried out for him by Le Sueur. The invoice for the ‘great Diana’ was the only one paid in full from the royal coffers.

During the Commonwealth, the statue and fountain were moved from Somerset House to Hampton Court in 1656 and placed in the Privy Garden there. In an inventory of Cromwell’s goods following the accession of Charles II there is a reference to the statue on a fountain ‘known as Arethusa’: an appropriate name for a fountain as it was Diana (Artemis) who transformed a water nymph called Arethusa into a fountain to save her from the unwanted attentions of a minor river god. Interestingly, Latin/English dictionaries in the last century gave ‘fountain’ as a meaning of the word ‘Arethusa’. The statue of Diana (Artemis) is placed on top of the fountain (Arethusa) as a powerful image of the protection offered by this great goddess.

At the end of the seventeenth century, Christopher Wren drew up his grand plans for an avenue to run from the Palace gardens through the length of Bushy Park. There are references to repairs to the statue known as Diana and to the cost of a further plinth made for the fountain. In 1713 the statue and fountain were placed in a basin in the middle of Wren’s grand avenue, where they have been known and loved as ‘the Diana’ for the last three hundred years.

For some obscure reason, possibly following the installation of a troubled water construction named after Princess Diana in Hyde Park, The Royal Parks have now chosen to refer to the statue in Bushy Park as ‘Arethusa’. Any enquiry as to the reason or evidence for this new name has been ignored. No historical reference has been forthcoming. The statue was designed and built on the orders of Charles I, who was not only a stickler for protocol, so would never have created a mere water nymph for his queen; It was far too lowly – only a goddess would do, but he was also making sure that his gardens were rivals to the French gardens; another reason for having a statue of a goddess rather than a water nymph, so the naming of a statue after an insignificant water nymph, which had been bought by a king for his queen’s garden, is absurd.

The Royal Parks should keep the Diana name for this statue. It has been its name for best part of 400 years and should remain so.

There will be growing interest in it in the years to come with its restoration due, so we should state quite clearly now that it is “Diana” and not the unsubstantiated “Arethusa”.

We should remove references to it from the maps before they are published. There is no point in confusing the public when there is no evidence at all for calling it Arethusa any more than there is evidence of the myth surrounding the statue as being to a mother who murdered her children. (see the Royal parks leaflet on the fountain).

One further piece of evidence for Diana is the two Titian paintings Diana and Callisto and The Death of Actaeon. Both show her hair in a very similar style to the Bushy Diana. One has a simple crescent and the other a more complicated decoration. The Bushy Diana also has a crescent which may become more obvious after the restoration.

To change the name of the Diana Fountain after three hundred years will do nothing but add confusion for the public at a time when the Royal Parks are about to open the Pheasantry Centre, part of which is designed to help guide people around the park. The maps have been printed with the name Arethusa on them. They should be changed back to Diana at the earliest opportunity.

Pieter Morpurgo
Chairman, The Friends of Bushy and Home Parks. December 2008

Walks & Talks

Forthcoming event

Thursday, 26th Oct 8:00 pm

The wonders of Fungi – talk by Brian Spooner, former head of Mycology at Kew

Latest report

A perimeter walk of Home Park led by Nicholas Garbutt was enjoyed by over 45 people on 2nd September.Walk in Home Park- 2nd September

Full report...