Mrs Maple’s fountain
Penge Recreation Ground was opened to the public with great municipal fanfare in 1888, as was the custom in late Victorian times. The park was superbly maintained by the council, a park keeper and on-site gardener from its opening until the early seventies. There was an extensive greenhouse for growing plants and a flower clock. Some of the wide variety of trees are over 100 years old.
At the park entrance on the High Street is a War Memorial, with the former park keeper’s lodge, once in disrepair but now fully renovated, standing inside the gates.
Within the park is a tall red granite drinking fountain presented by Mrs Blundell Maple in 1889. This is known as Mrs Maple’s fountain. Most parks had drinking fountains: ‘ a healthy mind in a healthy body’ was a popular axiom and the recreational aspect of parks was paramount.
Mrs Emily Blundell Maple was the wife of Sir John Blundell Maple, 1st Baronet, of Maple Furniture stores fame. Both were well-known for their philanthropy and, from the photo below, circa 1910, there were a lot of thirsty children to benefit from the facility. Mrs Blundell died in 1903.
Here is a photo of Mrs Maple’s daughter, Lady Archibald Weigall, which gives some idea of the privileged monied background to the family. Lady Weigall was well-known for her philanthropic support of local causes.Was Maple Road named after the family and what exactly were their connections with Penge? We do know that Mrs Blundell Maple had a begonia named after her in 1892. Description in begonia database: ‘showy’.
The fountain used to have a brass plaque and coronet on the top with drinking cups attached by chains to the side. There was a shell-shaped water bowl in the front. The fountain was given a clean-up and polish some years ago by Bromley Council when the park was reconfigured but the fountain has since been vandalised.
Local voluntary group Penge Partners has an ongoing project to refurbish and repair this attractive remnant of Victorian design although, sadly, it will never again function as a drinking fountain owing to water supply problems. If you wish to donate to the project, contact Penge Partners on 07983 796 089 or email firstname.lastname@example.org