Lockheed staff magazine ‘Precision’ dated March 1951 reported: The year is 1951 the year of Britain’s great Festival, with British craftsmanship on show to the world in two great sections – the South Bank site on the River Thames at Waterloo Bridge and the 37 acres of Pleasure Gardens at Battersea.
An outstanding feature of the Festival of Britain gardens at Battersea Park will be the Lockheed Fountain, consisting of a mermaid without a tail, but with beautiful legs and fins instead of feet. She will lie balanced on the shell of a turtle in the centre of a 26 feet diameter basin situated at the focal point of the main roadways of the gardens. Water will spray from the mouths of three fishes, two on her legs and one on her shoulder, and also from the mouth of the turtle, and the whole fountain will be floodlit in colour. The fountain was recently acquired by the Lockheed Hydraulic Brake Company Ltd., who are loaning it to the Festival of Britain organisation for the duration of the Festival, and no doubt, “Meet me at the Lockheed Fountain”, will become a familiar phrase for visitors to the Festival Gardens.
The creator of the fountain is Mr. Arthur Fleischmann, Czechoslovak sculptor, now an Australian citizen, with a studio in Mayfair who thinks that mermaids with fish tails are rather dull! It took him three months to complete the model in clay. Two models posed for the statue, 20 year old Joyce Taylor, a piano student who lives in a student’s hostel and an 18 year old commercial artist who is keeping her name secret.
The mermaid, according to Mr. Fleischmann, bears no marked resemblance to either model, both of whom acted as guides. The face has combined feminine beauty with the characteristics of a “sea lady”. Mr. Fleischmann, who is also a qualified doctor, but only practised for three years, left Prague in 1938 after Hitler had annexed the Sudetenland and emigrated to Australia.
The actual figure is cast in bronze by the “lost wax” process at the foundry of John Galizia of Battersea, who has produced many famous reproductions of statues by well-known sculptors.
On May 1st 1951 a party of the press were invited to a private view of the bronze mermaid which has recently been installed in the Festival of Britain Gardens at Battersea Park as the Lockheed fountain. Mr. W. Emmott, one of the three Managing Directors of the Lockheed Hydraulic Brake Company Ltd., officially inaugurated the fountain by turning on the water and stated that “his organisation were proud to take a part in the Festival because they felt that the achievements of Britain should be known throughout the world. They were proud to make an artistic as well as a financial contribution to the occasion. Great praise is due to the creator and sculptor, Mr. Arthur Fleischmann, whose very original conception of a lady of the sea, an attractive maiden without the traditional tail, is certain to attract the widest interest. Over ten million people are expected to visit these Gardens, and we hope that the Fountain will, among other fine exhibits on view help them to remember the Festival for a very long time.”
When the lawns and flower beds are finally ready the Fountain will certainly be one of the beauty spots of the gardens, and, we hope a familiar meeting place for visitors from Leamington Spa.
At the close of the Festival ‘Miranda’, the 2.5 metres [8 feet] long and 1.2 metres [4 feet] high bronze statue was returned to the Tachbrook Road factory site and was sited in front of the main offices close to the main road where a war time static tank had been redesigned in Cotswold stone to provide a fitting home for this unique sculpture. It was to be enjoyed by everyone.
But what is a static tank and why was it used?
The Lockheed staff magazine ‘Precision’ dated June 1952 reported:
HOME AT LAST… but to a damp reception
“Once upon a time when petrol was something like 1/11d. a gallon [ah, sweet memories!] and cigarettes were 11½d. for 20, this small island of ours became involved in no uncertain way, in a world war. It became necessary through one thing and another [mainly the aerial activities of our opponents] to build at certain strategic points, receptacles which were to become known as static water tanks. These tanks, apart from being convenient places to deposit odd bits of rubbish, bicycles, tyres, bedsteads etc. were to be used in the event of a fire and the breakdown of the main water supply.”
“In the latter capacity they were undoubtedly of great use and probably saved thousands of pounds worth of material in the various fires throughout the country, but, at the end of the war, a problem arose – what to do with them?”
“We don’t know what the general ruling was or even if there ever was one, but at Lockheed it was decided to keep two full of water so that they could be used in the event of an outbreak of fire, and demolish the others. The one in front of the factory did, however [after some decorative alteration] provide a very comfortable sanctuary for one or two colourful fish and some water lilies, and so became partially disguised and at the same time quite attractive.”
“More recently, the fish in the pond have been graced with the presence of a beautiful young lady who is home after spending some considerable time in the Festival Gardens at Battersea Park. This young lady, shown in the close up on the front cover, is, as many will recall, a bronze statue of a mermaid, but a mermaid with a difference, as the young lady has legs and fins instead of the more fashionable tail.”
“The pond and its recent addition, the Festival Fountain, situated as they are in front of the main office building and alongside the gardens, present a colourful picture rarely seen on a factory site. At lunchtimes during the week, it is a common site to see groups of girls and boys from the various factories standing around and admiring the mermaid and her underwater attendants. Also during working hours it is interesting to watch, unobserved, the reactions of visitors to the factory as they walk along the front boulevard. At first it is a casual glance and then a closer look terminating in a thorough inspection.”
The company subsequently used the fountain and the sculpture at the front of the offices for a number of publicity shots. This particular one in May 1957 shows Mr. George Raven, Lockheed Competitions Manager [right] and Mr. Roy Fenner, his Installations Engineer immediately prior to their departure from the Lockheed factory to Holland, where they assisted competitors on the famous Tulip Rally. Their new transport was a distinctive 90 m.p.h. red and fawn Standard ‘Sportsman’ estate car which was specially built for the Lockheed Competitions Department by the Standard Motor Company of Coventry. On completion of the Tulip Rally they motored across Europe to assist British competitors in the Mille Miglia, the gruelling 1,000 mile Italian Road Race.
The May 1957 edition of ‘Precision’ also reported:
Further Airborne Visitors – now Residents
“Recently qualified for family allowances is Madame Mallard who six weeks ago took up residence on the ornamental pool in front of the Lockheed factories in Leamington Spa. After acclimatising herself to the new and very hospitable surroundings [where she is regularly over-fed by many workers who share their lunch with her], she disappeared into the bushes at the back. Two or three weeks later, after only odd appearances for food, she appeared with her pride and joy – eleven brand new chicks. We must record here that father seems to have other interests for he is rarely seen. Perhaps at heart he is a River Leam bird, but there again, maybe he shirks his family responsibilities. These men!”
Miranda was later designated as a listed building grade II. Quite how a mermaid can be classed as a listed building I don’t know, but sadly, she was stolen in 2001 and has never been found.
Allan Jennings, February 2016