7:00am Saturday 29th October 2011
By Andrew Ffrench
IF the fountain freezes over at Oxford’s Radcliffe Infirmary, it’s a clear signal to turn up the central heating or throw another log on the fire.
But now weather watchers have noticed that the iconic statue and fountain have vanished.
The fountain, and statue of half-man, half-fish Triton, were recently removed for refurbishment as part of a major redevelopment at the former hospital site by Oxford University.
Linda Johnson, of Plough Close, Wolvercote, said: “If we wanted to know in the 1950s if it was cold enough to put another lump of coal on the fire, we had to walk from St Clement’s to Woodstock Road to see if Triton fountain was frozen right over – if he was, we threw another lump of coal on.
“He’s part of Oxford’s history.”
According to mythology, Triton was the son of Poseidon, the Greek sea-god, who ordered him to blow on a trumpet made of a conch shell to soothe the waves. The statue, in terra cotta, was erected following public subscription in 1857.
Last month Somerville College’s new £10m accommodation blocks were the first buildings to be finished at the £500m redevelopment.
When complete, the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter will have a new maths institute, humanities building and school of government and a new street linking Woodstock Road and Walton Street.
Oxford University spokesman Matt Pickles said: “The historic Radcliffe Infirmary building with its statue of Triton forms one of the centrepieces of the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter (ROQ) development. The statue was removed so that repairs could be made and the fountain could be relined.
“It will return to its original location on the site next summer.
He added: “The ROQ project is well under way – the Jericho Health Centre will open next summer and the students have already moved into the Somerville buildings. When it is safe to do so, a path will be opened between Walton Street and Woodstock Road to allow public access across the site.”
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