McLagan Drinking Fountain

Location: Bathgate, West Lothian, Scotland

The drinking fountain was presented to the town of Bathgate in 1878 by the wife of the local Member of Parliament, Peter McLagan, to provide free clean gravity fed water from the filters on Drumcross Road. Peter McLagan was a land owner, shale mine operator and an advocate of the Temperance cause which made the donation of a drinking fountain especially meaningful.

The structure originally stood on a two tiered plinth in the middle of the road at the crossroads of Hopetoun Street, North Bridge Street, Livery Street and Engine Street (later named George Street). Photographic evidence reveals that it was a gathering place when the local pub closed its doors for the night. Its position in the middle of the road interfered with traffic flow and was most likely the reason it was moved to the lower end of George Street known as the Steelyard.

Drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue was manufactured at the Saracen Foundry at Possilpark in Glasgow, the most prolific architectural iron founders in the world. 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 a dedication shield states; Presented by Mrs. McLagan of Pumpherston in commemoration of the opening of the Bathgate Water Works, 30th May 1878; and, Rescued by Bathgate Community Council and restored by West Lothian District Council.’ 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 fountain was provided with a lantern at the behest of the purchaser. However, the lamp did not survive the move to the new location at the Steelyard and a crown with a pattée cross finial now stands in its stead.

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

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