Hong Kong Fountain

Location: Hong Kong, China

To celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, many cities in the British Empire erected fountains including Hong Kong where six fountains were donated by Mr. Dorabjee Nowrojee, an Indian Parsi businessman and the founder of Star Ferry. They were manufactured by the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, and erected in 1887.

The original locations were:

  1. Sailor’s Home (accommodation for visiting sailors). The fountain was located on the south side of the building. see photo of the Home, a faint image of it can be seen in the gap between trees,
  2. Chinese Recreation Ground in Possession Point, see photo,
  3. Canton Steamer Wharf,
  4. 2 Police Station,
  5. Harbour Master’s Office
  6. Wanchai Market.

The fountains were number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue and were 9 feet 6 inches high. The structures consisted of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals united with arches formed of decorated mouldings.

Rope moulded cartouches contained within each lunette hosted the image of a crane. Medallions contained within each lunette hosted images (it is unknown which images were selected. However, the most common were a crane, 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,’ a bust of Queen Victoria, and a city shield.) 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 finial being a crown with a pattée cross.

Under the canopy stood 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 was 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.

The fountains were maintained for 10 years and refreshed for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897. However, with the improvement in water sanitation and supply, and the repeated theft of the cups, chains and statues, it was decided to abandon the structures in 1910. Only two fountains were retained, one in the western corner of the Sailor’s home which was not operational;  the second fountain was a functioning drinking fountain at the Chinese Recreation Ground in Possession Point. The remaining fountains were dismantled leaving only one column for adaptation to a lamp post. See photos of partial destruction and recycled lamp post.

It would appear that only one of these fountains still exists. The fretwork dome is missing as are some of the medallions. The font is also missing. The remnant of the fountain is on public exhibition at the Hong Kong Museum of History.

 Glossary

  • 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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