Macquarie Park Fountain

Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

In the mid 19th century Walter Renny, the mayor of Sydney, ordered eight cast iron canopied drinking fountains from the Walter Macfarlane & Co. catalog. In 1869 the shipment was received and the fountains were distributed throughout the city. Macquarie Park was a triangular plot of land on the corner of Bridge and Loftus Street. The park was enlarged and Macquarie Street was incorporated into the green space. The original location of this drinking fountain is unknown; however, it was relocated to Macquarie Place Park in 1976.

The Saracen Foundry drinking fountain number 8 from Macfarlane’s catalogue is 9 feet 6 inches high. The structure consists of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals unite with arches formed of decorated mouldings.

Cartouches contained within each lunette host the image of 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.’; and the circular seal of the City of Sydney which contains an inscription identifying Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of City of Sydney, 1857. The Coat of Arms consists of a shield with a ship and beehive surmounted by a mural crown impaled with a pick-axe and a star. The shield is flanked by an aboriginal native with a spear; and an English sailor. The Seal bears the motto, “I take, but I surrender.”

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 apex being an imperial crown.

Under the canopy the original font (casting number 7) was 5 foot 8 inches high; a single pedestal with four decorative columns rising from an octagonal base. Four salamanders descended the fountain pedestal as a symbol of courage and bravery. The basin had a scalloped edge and decorative relief. A central urn with four projecting tendrils offered drinking cups suspended by chains. The terminal was a crane. The original font was replaced with a bubbler in 1916.

A study pertaining to Macquarie Place, prepared by Lester Tropman & Associates for the Council of the City of Sydney in 1990, proposed reconstructing a brass swan that was at the centre of the fountain. The standard terminal for casting number 7 was a crane. However, modification and customization was encouraged by William MacFarlane, and it is possible that there was a swan and not a crane at the centre of the font.

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
  • 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
  • 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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