By Mike Garnett
There is excitement in the air at Romsey with the final touches for the new roundabout under way at the junction of High Street and Barry Street.
Historically, it was the site for the original Romsey Fountain that was unveiled in 1901 to commemorate the reign of Queen Victoria.
By all accounts it was a handsome edifice but, as the town grew larger, it became a traffic hazard.
The unveiling ceremony in 1901 was held at the spot now occupied by the roundabout.
The township of Romsey has had an association with fountains for almost 120 years, but when the original was unceremoniously demolished in 1924 no effort was made to preserve it, and the pieces that made up the substantial monument virtually disappeared into thin air.
The Memorial Fountain was dedicated to the public by the Romsey Shire president Councillor William Somerville JP on July 24 1901.
For the record, the fountain consisted of a brick and cement basin with a pedestal in the centre supporting dolphins and sea eagles, and also a figure of a woman – the whole cast in cement.
When the fountain was ‘in play’, the dolphins and sea gulls spouted water and fell onto two ornamental concave dishes.
The basin was kept filled for stock watering purposes, and an ordinary ball tap used to prevent overflow.
It was an important convenience for Romsey at a time when the township saw daily arrivals of horse-drawn Cobb and Co coaches – before the motor car made an indelible difference.
At the dedication, Cr Somerville optimistically noted ‘the fountain would be an enduring monument to her memory, but if in the process of years it should crumble away, he would be confident that it would be re-erected as the respect for the Queen would pass down from generation to generation until time should be no more.’
But he could not anticipate the spot chosen would one day become a busy and dangerous intersection for traffic approaching Romsey from all directions – or more specifically from Melbourne, Lancefield, Woodend and Wallan.
Looking on the bright side, Romsey now has the best of both worlds.
It has a relocated fountain near the Mechanics Hall, unveiled in 2001 to celebrate the Centenary of Federation.
And it now has an impressive roundabout at ‘The Gateway to Romsey’ that will surely help traffic flow for many years into the future.