The Big Fountain Clean

Posted: September 29th 2020

by Ryan Mills, Houseman

The Big Fountain Clean

Since the fountain was restored and repaired in 2016, it has not been emptied or cleaned since so it was due a good clean. Different treatments and techniques were used over the past three years to clean the bottom of the fountain and reduce the algae content, but nothing had much of an effect. During lockdown, we decided that since the Hall was shut, and the weather was looking good for the next few weeks we would go ahead and start the project of draining the fountain and carrying out a deep clean.

The first step was draining the fountain to reveal the bottom which was originally stone but had been fitted with a thick black liner by the restoration team in 2016. The draining was done by opening the exit valves in the pump room to let water escape through the rooms’ drainage system. No chemicals had been used for over a year in the fountain instead, bales of barley straw were used. The straw releases a naturally occurring substance when rotting which combats the algae which meant the water was safe to dispose of. The overall drainage time lasted a week, and slowly we began to see the bottom of the fountain… and the monstrous task ahead of us!

We began cleaning with squeegees the size of brooms and pushed all of the algae, leaf litter, and duck waste to the centre of the fountain which was the lowest point, this meant the sludge that collected there would stay put and settle ready for the next step. Whilst clearing the sludge, we found and recovered the dragon’s bottom jaw which had broken off a year ago which we suspect was due to high winds. Luckily, it had no damage at all as its fall had been cushioned by the water and sediment at the bottom. This was arranged to be fitted back on later on in the process.

Now that the fountain had all the sludge sat at the lowest point, it was time to call in a tractor with a huge vacuum specially designed to suck up wet waste. Once the company arrived on the south terrace, they put together a long tube to feed from the fountain into the container on the trailer of the tractor. To start with it worked well, but the sludge had dried out slightly in the warm sunny weather so was proving difficult to hoover up the further down they got. We remedied this by attaching a water hose to the opening of the vacuum pipe which broke the waste up and watered it down to decrease its viscosity.

Once the sludge had been removed from the fountain, the rest of the watered-down sediment was hosed down the waste pipe and pressure washing could begin. The pressure washing took three days to fully complete but the results were worth it as the whole bowl and pedestals were pristine and ready to be refilled.

However, before the refilling could begin, the dragon’s jaw had to be reattached. As it was a clean break it was easily reattached. Unfortunately, we did also discover that the spear that protrudes from the dragon’s neck had snapped at some point in 2019 and was hanging by a thin piece of metal, so it was removed to be fixed at a later date.

Now that the dragon’s jaw and goatee were securely fixed in place, the filling process could begin. To treat the water, we chose to use a natural barley extract to slow the speed at which the algae could produce. This extract will also be drip-fed daily to keep the green colouration at bay. To refill the fountain with water we used the top-up system already in the fountain and a garden hose. Surprisingly, this only took eight days to completely refill and the fountain’s pump room could now be turned back on.

With all the work now finished, we turned on the circulation and filtration system ready for the weekend as the Hall had now reopened for tours. We had lots of positive comments from visitors who were happy to see it working again, and how nice it looked coming in from the south. Hopefully, if we keep up the treatment and checks we won’t have to clean it again for another 5 years.

Big thank you to Jon Haggerwood, Pete Underwood, and Matt Bundock for their roles in cleaning the fountain.

Find out more from Ryan by watching his ‘Toolbox Talk’ on the fountain here.

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