Jamestown Memorial Fountain

Location: Jamestown, St. Helena

Most memorial drinking fountains celebrate the life of someone who gave service to the community. In this case, the memorial marks a tragic event in St. Helena’s history. Jamestown is the capital and the largest town in the island which is 1200 miles off the west coast of Africa in the South Atlantic Ocean.

An excerpt from the book, St. Helena the Historic Island by E. L. Jackson. The year 1890 was marked by a terrible fall of rocks, which caused loss of life. The town is on three sides surrounded by high rocky precipices which completely shut it in, the only open space being northward towards the sea. The roads to the interior are made along these rocks, which in many places are loose and intersected with shale. After heavy rains, or a very hot season, huge masses detach themselves and fall into the valley. There have been many falls of rock, but none so terrible as that which occurred on April 19, 1890, when the inhabitants were roused in the dead of night of perfect darkness by a low rumbling sound, gaining quickly in force, until, with a deafening roar, hundreds of tons of rock were precipitated on the houses in the town, burying sleeping men, women and children. The remembrance of this is even now terrifying to the people who fled their homes panic-stricken, not knowing from what quarter danger threatened. Nine persons were killed, many seriously hurt, and a great number saved in a most miraculous manner. To the memory of the dead, and as thanksgiving for the escape of so many, a memorial fountain was erected in the main street.

The fountain was originally located on Main Street between the Consulate Hotel and the Post Office. Sadly, it was removed in the 1990s and there is no record of its current whereabouts. However, the memorial plaque is now displayed on the exterior wall of the public library facing the Grand Parade. Interestingly, the date on the plaque differs from the account of the tragedy related in the previous paragraph. It reads: ‘In memory of the nine persons killed by the fall of 1500 tons of rock 17th April 1890’

The drinking fountain stood on a single circular plinth and was manufactured by the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland. Drinking fountain number 8 and is recorded as 9 feet 6 inches high. The structure consisted of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals united with arches formed of decorated mouldings. Griffins are symbols of guardians of priceless possessions. Cartouches contained within three lunettes hosted the image of a crane with the fourth being the dedication shield. On two of the sides provision was made for receiving an inscription; whilst on the other two sides was the useful monition, “Keep the pavement dry”. Surmounting this was an open and highly enriched dome, the apex being occupied by a crown and a lamp.

Under the canopy stands the font (casting number 7.) A single pedestal with four decorative columns rises from an octagonal base. Four salamanders descend the fountain pedestal as a symbol of courage and bravery. The basin, 2 feet 6 inches in diameter, had a dog tooth edge and decorative relief. A central urn with four outstretched tendrils offer drinking cups suspended by chains. The terminal is a crane, a symbol of vigilance.

The memorial was erected in September 1891.

Glossary:

  • Cartouche, a structure or figure, often in the shape of an oval shield or oblong scroll, used as an architectural or graphic ornament or to bear a design or inscription
  • Console: a decorative bracket support element
  • Cusp, the point of intersection of two ornamental arcs or curves
  • Filigree, fine ornamental work
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

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Posted on August 19, 2013, in Architecture, Cast Iron, Memorial Drinking Fountain, Saracen Foundry and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I have been going to St. Helena since 1963 and do not recall the fountain at all…

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