Location: Cowes, Isle of Wight
Located in Cowes, this Saracen Foundry drinking fountain is featured on the Esplanade facing north to the Solent, (the strait that separates the Isle of Wight from the mainland of England.) The fountain was donated in 1864 by George Robert Stephenson, cousin of the famed civil engineer Robert Stephenson, to commemorate the wedding of the Prince of Wales to Princess Alexandria of Denmark.
The fountain was restored in 1979 and was listed a grade II English Heritage Building in 1979. It is positioned atop 5 steps overlooking the Esplanade and the English Channel.
Drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue was manufactured at the Saracen Foundry at Possilpark in Glasgow. The structure is 9 feet 6 inches high and consists of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals unite with arches formed of decorated mouldings. (Griffins are symbols of guardians of priceless possessions.)
Rope moulded cartouches within each lunette host the image of a crane, and an open bible displaying a verse from St. John’s Gospel chapter 4 verse 14, ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.’ On two of the sides provision was made for receiving an inscription using raised metal letters; whilst on the other two sides was the useful monition, Keep The Pavement Dry. Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains. The structure is surmounted by an open filigree dome, the finial being a crown with a pattée cross.
Under the canopy stands the font (design number 7) 5 foot 8 inches high. The basin which has a scalloped edge and decorative relief is supported by a single decorative pedestal with four pilasters and four descending salamanders, a symbol of courage and bravery. A central urn with four consoles offer drinking cups suspended by chains. The terminal is a crane.
Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions, salamanders display bravery and courage that cannot be extinguished by fire, and cranes are recognized as a symbol of vigilance.
- Capital: The top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
- 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
- Filigree, fine ornamental work
- Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
- Fret, running or repeated ornament
- Griffin, winged lion denotes vigilance and strength, guards treasure and priceless possessions
- Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
- Pattée cross, a cross with arms that narrow at the centre and flare out at the perimeter
- Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
- Pilaster, a column form that is only ornamental and not supporting a structure
- Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests
- Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal