An Italian oddity in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Every town has its oddities and Cheltenham is no exception. Behind the Town Hall in Imperial Square, tucked away in a recess in one of the buildings is a fountain. It’s not functioning, or even very clean, but there it sits behind a fence with a nice little ornate hedge in front of it.

The strange story of the fountain is told on a brass plaque: it is allegedly Italian, taken by the French army during the French Revolutionary Wars – when European powers formed an alliance against newly-republican France, bringing Napoleon to power – before being taken again, this time by the British.

The wording of the plaque is wonderful- I love how the French ‘looted’ the fountain – a brazen, cowardly act – while the British army ‘captured’ it – something with worthy and braver undertones – yet it was still sold without, it seems, trying to return it to the Italians. It’s ended up in Cheltenham where it’s been shifted around the town centre over the last two hundred years like an unwanted present you just can’t get rid of. But I quite like it, this odd relic of a long-forgotten war which brought to prominence the man who would become Emperor of France in 1804.

See also: A Grand Tour around Cheltenham, England

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