Cardiff’s Canopy Fountains

The Samuel family of Cardiff was a major benefactor to the city of Cardiff, Wales, with the donation of as many as 10 drinking fountains. Not all of the fountains were cast iron, and of the few surviving structures none are operational and exist only as canopies. The cast iron canopied drinking fountains from Walter Macfarlane &Co.’s catalogue were manufactured at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland.

ROATH PARK The first drinking fountain donated by the Samuel family was erected in Roath Park in memory of the matriarch and patriarch of the Samuel family, Moses and Gertrude, who died in 1893. An additional fountain was presented to the Council in 1913 by the family and formally accepted by the Lord Mayor at a ceremony in the Recreation Ground on September 29th 1913. It was located at the south end of the park near Penylan Road. Both fountains shown on Ordnance Survey maps for the 1900s through to the 1920s are no longer visible in the 1940s.

VICTORIA PARK Lewin L. Samuel (their son) also died in 1893 and is memorialized at two different locations. The fountain at the north east corner of the lake in Victoria Park was erected in 1908. The canopy was restored and relocated to the centre of a formal flower bed at the south end of the park in 1986. A dedication shield is engraved with inscription; In Memoriam / Lewin L Samuel / Aged 39 Years / Died 1893. Presented To / The City Of Cardiff / In The Year 1908 / By His Brothers / In Affectionate / Remembrance.

GRANGE GARDENS The Samuel brothers donated a drinking fountain to the city in memory of their sister Mrs. Rachel Joseph. Erected in Grange Gardens, it was presented by Rachel’s daughter in 1909 and accepted on behalf of the Council by the Lord Mayor. During World War II the metal canopies were removed from the fountains to assist the war effort.

A replica funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund was created from the original canopy design owned by Heritage Engineering. It was installed in 2001. However, it incorrectly contains the same inscription as the fountain in Victoria Park. In addition, an incorrect griffin model with outstretched wings was applied during restoration (this model was associated with canopy number 8 which had 4 columns and the outstretched wings lay on the arches.) The pattern for canopy 21 should contain griffins with wings tucked in to the side.

HAYES In the year 1908 a fountain dedicated to Harry Samuel was erected in front of the Central Library at the Hayes, Cardiff. Miss Lena Samuel, niece of Harry, formerly handed over the fountain to the corporation.

BUTETOWN A cast iron drinking fountain was also located at Butetown Docks, known locally as Tiger Bay, at the junction of Bute Place and Bute Crescent. As the area deteriorated in the mid 1970s, the fountain was abandoned and became derelict. In one of the photographs it is evident that part of the canopy, one of the columns and the original font are missing. The Welsh Government’s Historic Environment Service removed the fountain’s status as a protected building in 1993.

A plaque attached to the fountain once displayed a rhyme warning sailors of the dangers of drink and loose women in the many pubs surrounding Cardiff docks:
Stop Seamen and take a draught, there be danger here both here and aft,
And learn to shun that wicked craft who looks at yonder door.
The compass that is stationed here will from danger keep you clear,
And show you how to steer, on this dreadful shore,
Heed not the music or the sport, here in the alley or the court.
They’ll both entice you to a port, beset with rock and reef,
And ere from there you cannot return, they’ll overhaul the cash you earn,
Using you from stern to stern and bring you all to grief.

Casting number 21 (18 feet by 4 feet) was supported by eight columns with griffin terminals which were positioned over capitals with foliage frieze above square bases. The highly decorated cusped arches were trimmed with rope mouldings which displayed lunettes with images of cranes or optional memorial shields. On each side arch faceplates provided a flat surface for an inscription using raised metal letters; often the useful monition, Keep The Pavement Dry. Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains.

Doves and flowers offered decorative relief on the circular, open filigree, ribbed dome. The internal capitals were floral ornament. The structure was surmounted with a vase and spiked obelisk finial.

There is little photographic evidence to confirm the font design. However, the traditional font for this canopy pattern was casting number 7. The 5 ft 8ins high font was a single decorative pedestal with four pilasters and descending salamander relief supporting a basin 2 ft 6 ins in diameter. The interior surface of the scalloped edge basin was engraved with decorative relief, and a sculptured vase was terminated by the figure of a crane. Four elaborate consoles supported drinking cups on chains.

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
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Cusped Arch, the point of intersection of lobed or scalloped forms
  • Filigree, fine ornamental work
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • 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
  • Obelisk, a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Pilaster, a column form that is only ornamental and not supporting a structure
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal



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