Da Gama Clock Fountain

Location: Durban, KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa

400 years after the Portuguese explorer, Vasco Da Gama, sighted land which he named Natal, a memorial drinking fountain was erected as a gift from the Portuguese government to the British Colony of South Africa. The original location of this structure in 1897 was at the corner of Point Road and Southampton Street, Durban, and was later moved to the Esplanade Gardens in 1969.

Drinking fountain number 20 is from Walter Macfarlane’s catalog manufactured at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland and sits on a two tier octagonal plinth. The drinking fountain canopy is supported by eight columns with griffin terminals, symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions.

The highly decorated fret detail arches are trimmed with rope detail. Cartouches contained within each lunette offer shields for memorial; a crane, the city of Durban seal, and a stylized 1897. Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains. Interior terminals are owls representing guardians of the afterlife. The ribbed dome is open filigree surmounted by four clocks facing east, west, north and south.

The font is casting number 19, a quatrefoil basin supported by a wide base with four lion jambs also acknowledged as guardians. The stanchion and central column are decorated with floral relief. Four tendrils protrude from the column to suspend drinking cups on chains. The capital supports the finial, a statue of Samson.

A plaque attached to the monument states that the memorial was erected by the Burgesses of Durban to commemorate the discovery of this colony by Vasco da Gama on Christmas day AD1497.

An engraved stone offers interpretation in English and Portuguese to commemorate the fifth centenary of the birth of Vasco Da Gama, the Portuguese navigator and discoverer who named this land Natal. The monument was unveiled on 19th August 1969 by his Excellency the Portuguese Ambassador assisted by the Consul of Portugal and presented to the City of Durban by the Portuguese Club of Natal.

By 2010, the structure was in a state of disrepair and it was decided to restore it prior to the World Cup.

The structure is protected under the KwaZulu-Natal Heritage Act as a public memorial.


  • 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
  • Filigree, fine ornamental work
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Jamb, a projecting vertical post containing sculpture
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter
  • Stanchion, upright bar or post providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal



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