mobile nav


Time Flies clock tower and drinking fountain Time Flies clock tower + Elfin Oak

Memorial: Time Flies clock tower and drinking fountain

Erection date: 1909


{Inscribed around the central stone interior:}
This fountain was erected in 1909 to the memory of a beloved son and of one who loved little children.

{On each of the four faces of the clock tower:}
Time flies

(For the latest on this research jump down to “Latest”.)

This inscription initiated months of research and discussion between us and our consultant, Andrew Behan, delivering no definitive answers, but we got so close:

To begin our detective work let’s examine the text closely. This fountain was erected in 1909 “to the memory of” two people: a “beloved son” and “one who loved little children”. ‘To the memory of’ must surely mean that these two people had died by 1909. The son was surely the son of the person erecting the memorial. If he was a nephew, or anything else, other wording would have been used. And we would guess that he had died quite recently and was no more than a child or young man when he died. The ‘one who loved little children’ is a secondary dedicatee who may have died further back in time and died as an adult.

The Kensington Gardens Management Plan informs that the fountain was the gift of 'Mrs Galpin' so our first job is to identify her.  We quickly found a Thomas Dixon Galpin (1828 - 1910) who was a publisher (Cassell, Petter, Galpin & Company) and died at 1 Palace Houses, Kensington Gardens - wealthy enough for the fountain-erecting Mrs Galpin to be one of his close relatives. At this point we contacted our colleague Andrew Behan who has a way with family archives.

Thomas Dixon Galpin’s home at 1 Palace Houses, Bayswater Hill consisted of 25 rooms. Palace Houses consisted of thirteen properties, i.e. Nos. 1-13 Palace Houses, and in some records these are shown as being Palace Houses, Kensington Gardens and in others, Palace Houses, Bayswater Hill. They were not within the 'Gardens' as we know it today, but they lay to the north of the Bayswater Road. Thomas died on the 25th April 1910 and probate was granted to Theodore Albert Mitchell, Sidney Clement Galpin and Joseph Eaton Fanning. His effects totalled £460,606-4s-3d.

Thomas’s wife, Emma Amelia Galpin née Pare, predeceased him, on the 5th February 1897, leaving £4,360-16s-11d. This is before the fountain was erected (remember the fountain?) in 1909 so she is not our ‘Mrs Galpin’. Our search must now turn to any daughters-in-law that she had. Thomas and Emma had thirteen children, of which four were sons:-
William Dixon Galpin, born about 1857.
Sidney Clement Galpin, born February 1861.
Harry Vivian Galpin, born about 1865.
Walter Francis Galpin, born on 12th March 1866 (sometimes listed as Francis Walter Galpin).

Andrew researched each of these 4 sons and discovered that only one married: Sidney Clement Galpin married Beatrice Amy Boulton on the 1st June 1891 in Totteridge, Hertfordshire. Sidney is shown as a registered elector at 1 Palace Houses between 1902 and 1910, but in the 1911 census he and his family are living at 10 Silverdale Road, Eastbourne, Sussex. This census also shows that Beatrice Amy Galpin had been married for 19 years and that she had had two children, Walter Sidney Galpin, and Daphne Ida Galpin, both of whom lived to a good old age.

So Beatrice could be our Mrs Galpin but, from our point of view if not from hers, it is very disappointing that she did not have a son who had died shortly before 1909, who could have been the ‘beloved son’. This rather brings into question the identification of Beatrice as the erector but we have no other candidate.

Thinking about the ‘one who loved little children’: Beatrice’s father-in-law, Thomas, died too late (1910) but her mother-in-law, Emma, died in 1897 and had had 13 children, and one hopes she loved them. Although she had died 12 years earlier she may be the second dedicatee.

Andrew raised the tantalizing thought that J. M. Barrie may be the ‘one who loved little children’. Andrew writes: This fountain predates the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens by a couple of years, so there was nothing in Kensington Gardens at the time of the erection of the fountain to honour the author. Maybe Mrs Galpin would have known him. In 1891 when she was shown on the census at 23 Cavendish Square, Marylebone, J.M. Barrie was lodging a few doors away at 15 Cavendish Square. He wrote Peter Pan, which is set in Kensington Gardens, in 1902-4 whilst living with his wife at 100 Bayswater Road. Also Mrs Galpin’s father-in-law, Thomas, and her husband, Sidney, were publishers so, as an author, James Barrie might have known them, and their family? Barrie is well known to have liked children and he adopted the Llewellyn-Davies children when their parents died. Perhaps he also showed kindness to Mrs Galpin's two children who would have been of a similar age? I notice that the fountain bears the inscription under the clock 'Time Flies'. Peter Pan flew! As he was the boy who never grew up, did 'Time' exist? Am I reading too much into this?

Trouble is: Barrie did not die till 1937 and it would be odd to raise a fountain to his ‘memory’ in 1909.

One avenue we have not yet explored is Beatrice’s side of the family. Was she from a large family and had one of her parents recently died? Perhaps one of her siblings had recently lost a young son.

Disappointing not to have conclusively identified either of the dedicatees but it’s been fun trying. Do you have any ideas?

Deborah Hart Stock contacted us via Facebook suggesting a new line of enquiry: Clara Galpin who lived in the area in 1901/1911 and had lost a child before 1911. Andrew followed this up and we have a few paragraphs for anyone that is really interested, but still we have not conclusively nailed our Mrs Galpin. In brief: Clara was still alive when the shelter was erected, had 5 children one of whom died in 1909, but aged 39, so not the child we are expecting to find. Clara had 3 other sons each of whom married and so produced another 3 Mrs Galpins all of whom were of the right age to lose a young son shortly before 1909 but we cannot prove that they did.

There are a few indications that Clara’s husband was related to the extremely wealthy Galpins that we previously investigated so Clara’s offspring probably had the money to erect the shelter, but it could be another Mrs Galpin entirely.

As Andrew writes: “It will remain a mystery unless someone with particular knowledge comes forward.”

Spring 2016:  We've also contacted the Royal Parks Archives and The Friends of Kensington Gardens. Both were helpful but could add nothing to our enquiries.

May 2018: The British Newspapers Archive holds The Graphic, 25 December 1909 which has an image of the shelter and tells that the children's playground was laid out this year; that this shelter was erected this year; that the bird on the weather vane is a seagull; and that the architect was Alfred Young Nutt (1847 - 1924). But provides no information about who erected it or who is commemorated.

2018: See the Elfin Oak - could this have been erected by the same family?

Site: Time Flies clock tower + Elfin Oak (2 memorials)

W8, Broad Walk, Kensington Gardens

The aviary-type structure to the left of our photo is the cage which protects the Elfin Oak. Coins lie on the ground inside the cage. The clock tower is topped with a weather vane including a bird with outstretched wings.

View this memorial on a map

This section lists the subjects commemorated on the memorial on this page:
Time Flies clock tower and drinking fountain

Information Subjects commemorated

beloved son

Died not long before 1909, probably the son of Mrs Galpin.

Read More

one who loved little children

Died before 1909 probably as an adult.

Read More

This section lists the subjects who helped to create/erect the memorial on this page:
Time Flies clock tower and drinking fountain

Information Created by

Mrs Galpin

The Kensington Gardens Management Plan informs that the fountain was the gift...

Read More

This section lists the other memorials at the same location as the memorial on this page:
Time Flies clock tower and drinking fountain

Information Also at this site

Elfin Oak

For hundreds of years, no one knows for how many, this tree lived its life qu...

Read More