In the 1880s Kettering’s population was growing fast, from 11,093 in 1881 to 22,000 in 1891 due to the shoe trade taking off. and a large number of terraced houses were being erected in the north of the town for the workers.
In 1887 Mr John Bryan, a local factory owner and public figure, proposed that the Local Board should buy land for a park. Mr Bryan was born c1835, probably in Oakham, Rutland and moved to the Kettering area where they are show in the 1841 census living in Wadcroft, Kettering. He was to become a shoe manufacturer by the time he was aged 26 and he had various factories in the town. Starting on Bakehouse Hill in 1861, he then moved to Newland Street and later a disused chapel in Ebenezer Place where he built an extension of four floors making his own bricks. In 1888 he was at the Nelson Shoe Works on the corner of Nelson & Havelock Street. This was soon found to be too small for the ever increasing demand for boots and shoes and in 1895 he opened his much larger factory in Trafalgar Road known as the Nelson Shoe Works of Bryan & Sons Ltd.
John Bryan was also at this time buying land in the area with the profits of his factories and also built his own house in Rockingham Road known as Rockingham House, now being used as a care home.
In 1887 when Mr Bryan made the proposal to buy land for a park, the Local Board tried to purchase land to the west of Kettering from the Duke of Buccleuch in order to make a park to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee. The Duke was unwilling to sell so the plan was given up.
In 1890 Plans were presented to the Local Board of land it proposed to purchase from Mr Nunnelly (10½ acres) and Mr Bryan (8 acres) for a park. This plan was agreed and an application for a loan of £2,500 at an interest rate of 3½% from the Local Government Board (LGB) in London was made. There were no objectors to these plans and the LGB agreed to the making of a park to be known as the ‘Pleasure Park’.
The public opening of the park was on 12th May 1894 and in August the same year Mr Bryan proposed that a Drinking Fountain be erected in the Park at his own expense. This was agreed and a 12foot Fountain was built by a Glasgow firm for £59 and erected in the park later in 1894.
Here the Fountain stood for many years until 1972 when it was taken down due to vandalism and neglect. It was put into store at the Westfield Museum because Mr John Pemple, the Leisure & Amenities Officer, could not bring himself to scrap it, though he did state that he thought it impracticable to repair it.
It was about 1980 when a local woman said she would like to try to raise enough money to repair and put the fountain back on display in the town. Various events were held to help raise the money, including the auction of a painting of the fountain done by a local artist, Mr Ralph Hartley. The fountain was taken to pieces by builder Mr Paul Webster and taken to McAlpines to be sand blasted to remove the rust and assess the repairs needed.
Repairs were duly finished and after various ideas of where to re-erect the fountain, the site on the Horsemarket where the old Parish Church School stood until c1960 was decided upon. The fountain was erected on 11th May 1985; it had two sites on the Horsemarket, originally a few yards to the north of the present site, it was moved after a refurbishment of the area. Though not now capable of giving the locals a refreshing drink the fountain blends in well with the area, and is a reminder of what life was like at the beginning of the 20th century.