Elizabeth Farley Memorial Fountain

Location: West Bromwich, West Midlands, England

Reuben Farley, benefactor and Mayor of West Bromwich, erected this fountain in memory of his dear mother, Elizabeth Farley.

In researching this fountain, I am left wondering just how many more times it will be relocated. Originally erected in 1885 in Dartmouth Square at the junction of Old Paradise Street and High Street in West Bromwich, England, it remained in this location until 1911 when it was relocated near the Herbert Street entrance to Dartmouth Park.

In 1969 it was moved to the Dagger Lane entrance to accommodate the construction of the Expressway which cut through the park. The font had been removed and a square pillar with two protruding basins installed. The current wide mouthed basin on an urn shaped pedestal bears no resemblance to the pillar style font, or the original drinking fountain.

The elaborately decorated drinking fountain was listed a grade II historic building in 1987.During the bidding phase of the new town centre, one of the required conditions was an agreement to re-site the fountain close its original location. The move to Dartmouth Square in the High Street was accomplished in 1988. It is currently located at the entrance to the Farley Centre.

In 2013 plans were underway to move the fountain yet again to a knoll next to Reform Street Bridge which borders the park. However, recent rumours now suggest that the fountain will not be moved…

The canopied drinking fountain is design number 20, an elaborate 18 feet by 4 feet fountain, sold by Walter Macfarlane & Co, and manufactured at the Saracen Foundry, Possilpark, Glasgow, Scotland. Seated on a two tier octagonal plinth, the open filigree canopy is supported by eight columns with griffin terminals which are positioned over capitals with foliage frieze above square bases. Several column bases are inscribed: “W Macfarlane & Co Glasgow”.

The highly decorated cusped arches were trimmed with rope mouldings. Cartouches contained within each lunette host alternate images of cranes and swans and a dedication shield with the inscription, In/ Loving Memory Of/ Elizabeth Farley/ This Fountain Was Erected/ By Her Son/ Alderman Farley. J. P.  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 offer decorative relief on the circular, ribbed dome. The internal capitals contain flowers and the internal lunettes are lion mascarons. The structure is surmounted with an eagle finial.

Under the canopy stands the font (design number 18.) A circular shaft, ornamented with water lilies, rests on a wide base with canted corners. Four lion jambs support four highly decorated quatrefoil basins. Rising from the centre is a pyramid shaped stanchion decorated with swan and bird decoration. A kylix-shaped lamp terminal with four consoles offer drinking cups suspended by chains.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions; lions are symbolic of guardianship; doves are synonymous with peace, and eagles represent immortality.

By 1969 the font had been removed and a square pillar with two protruding basins installed. The current wide mouthed basin on an urn shaped pedestal bears no resemblance to the pillar style font, or the original drinking fountain.

Glossary

  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • 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
  • 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
  • Jamb, a projecting vertical post containing sculpture
  • Kylix, a Grecian style drinking cup
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests
  • Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter
  • Stanchion, upright bar or post providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

 

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