To the aristocrat who dreamed it up, the waterfall was to be a glorious cascade and centrepiece of his ornate west London garden. To the locals it was known as Lord Burlington's Piddle because it failed to gush.

Almost 250 years on, archaeologists from English Heritage are digging in the grounds of Chiswick House, next to the A4 and beneath Heathrow's northern flight path, in readiness to fit modern pumping equipment and restore the flow.

The nickname was given to Lord Burlington's waterfall after his three attempts to get it to spout produced little more than a trickle - doubtless because one source of energy was a horse whose power output was far from


The project is costing more than pounds 40,000 and money is being raised by the Friends of Chiswick House, a local group determined to see the cascade in use again.' The whole idea is that this should be fun, and we hope to attract more people to the gardens as a result, said Jeremy Benson, its chairman.

The water fountain was unveiled in 1738 and was one of the highlights of Chiswick House's pleasure gardens.

Now it is a Grade 1 listed building, and since July the archaeologists have been uncovering its mysteries and revealing the complex channels and brickwork beneath.

All the original pumps have gone. 'It's likely that Lord Burlington was angry because he could not make it work so he pulled out all the machinery,' said Mr Benson, an architect and a former commissioner for English Heritage.

Once modern pumping equipment is installed, restoration will begin on the flint and shell facade. The 7ft fall of water will also help to aerate the stagnant pool beneath and hopefully disguise the noise of cars and aircraft.

Lord Burlington, who was greatly influenced by the Italian architect Palladio, aimed to turn the gardens of Chiswick House into replicas of those that might have been found in ancient Rome. The neo-Palladian style of his house was soon copied elsewhere in Britain.

Anyone wishing to assist the Friends of Chiswick House can contact 081-995 0508.

(Photograph omitted)