Angela Burdett-Coutts and Victoria Park
Victoria Park in East London has recently received a makeover. Particularly striking is the renovated drinking fountain erected at the behest of Baroness Burdett-Coutts in 1862, though sadly it no longer supplies water. It provided a place for both humans and dogs to drink clean water under the aegis of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association which, as I have discussed elsewhere on this website, was particularly prominent in providing troughs for cattle and horses.
If Angela Burdett-Coutts is known at all today it is probably because of her wealth rather than her philanthropy towards people and animals. Responsible for the flats near the Columbia Road flower market and a failed attempt nearby to provide fresh food direct from producers at reasonable prices her work with animals is often forgotten. However, she was a leading member of the RSPCA, an enthusiastic keeper of goats on her Holly Farm (the site of which is in Highgate), and a campaigner for better working conditions for horses and donkeys. As I discuss in Animal Rights she regularly presented prizes for costermongers and donkeys alike at the Whit Monday cart-horse parade held in Regent’s Park. Prizes such as sacks of crushed oats were awarded for the oldest donkey in the show in the best condition or the donkey owned the longest by one person. She was given the freedom of the city of Edinburgh for her campaigning work there with horses – and also paid for the statue of Greyfriars Bobby.
The new self- guided Memoryscape walk by a downloadable app created by imaginative historian and editor of History Workshop Online Toby Butler and soundwalk artist Lewis Gibson will hopefully introduce newcomers to these different aspects of Victoria Park including the restored statues of the dogs of Alcibiades and the lake. The re-introduction of pleasure boats and fountains that work, however, seem to have resulted in fewer birds choosing to sojourn in its environs…