In June 1911, the Peacock Fountain, a gift to Christchurch by much respected business man – John Thomas Peacock – was unveiled outside the Robert McDougall Art Gallery in Christchurch’s Botanical Gardens. Just like its second unveiling on the 26th May 1996, the fountain raised all sorts of mixed opinions.
Peacock arrived in Port Cooper (Lyttelton) as a child in 1844. His father, John Jenkins Peacock, made a name for himself around Port by building the first jetty there. He was known as a strong man, wading out into the harbour, a sack of potatoes over each shoulder, to be dropped into his nearby row boat. The road around the Redcliffs shore line was known as ‘Peacock’s Gallop’ as he would ride his horse at great speed from his home in Sumner to Heathcote as he feared falling rocks from the cliffs above.
His son, John Thomas Peacock, grew up to be a member of the Canterbury Provincial Council and the New Zealand Legislative Council. He was director of the Union Insurance Company, the Christchurch Meat Company, the Loan Association of Canterbury, The Press and the New Zealand Shipping Company. He owned the Christchurch Tramway Company and was President of the Canterbury Club which still graces the corner of Cambridge Terrace and Worcester Boulevard.
But the man knew scandal. After his wife died suddenly just two days after celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary; he goes and marries their adopted daughter!!! This didn’t break the law but socially could have been suicide! He survived the gossip and continued to love his city, leaving money to the Christchurch Beautifying Society upon his death for them to spend how they saw fit. They bought a prefabricated fountain from the Coalbrookdale Iron Works in England.
One wrote to ‘The Press’ complaining that the fountain gave ‘…flu-like symptoms when looked upon…’ Plagued by numerous maintenance problems, the fountain was dismantled in 1949. Some parts went into storage whereas others ended up at Ferrymead Historic Park.
With new parts, a new colour job and with as much controversy, the Peacock Fountain had its second unveiling in its current location in 1996.
*Image courtesy of the Canterbury Public Library – http://christchurchcitylibraries.com – File Reference CCL Photo CD 8, IMG0005 *