Wilkinson Memorial Drinking Fountain

Location: Williamstown, Victoria, Australia

Reverend George Wilkinson. a native of County Cork, and described as a perfectionist, was the first rector of the prefabricated iron Holy Trinity Church, Williamstown. The temperance movement was a powerful religious, political and social force in Victorian society and he was held in awe for his denunciation of the evils of drink.

The cast-iron drinking fountain manufactured by the Saracen Company fountain is located at the corner of Nelson Place & Syme Street, Commonwealth Reserve, Williamstown, and was erected in 1876 by public subscription to commemorate the Reverend who had died a year earlier. The Wilkinson Memorial Drinking Fountain is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register Number H1733.

Drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue stands on a bluestone plinth made by monumental mason, Harry Bliss. 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.

Rope moulded cartouches contained within each lunette host the image of a crane, and an inscription which reads, Wilkinson Memorial Drinking Fountain 1875. 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. 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 offered drinking cups suspended by chains. The terminal (a crane) was removed with the original copper cups about 1935 when it was converted to a bubbler. The fountain currently has two stainless steel taps.

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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