Railway Square Fountain

Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

In 1870 the Mayor of Sydney selected a design of a cast-iron canopied drinking fountain from an illustrated catalogue of Walter Macfarlane & Co., Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland. The fountain located at Railway Square near the tram shelters was customized to incorporate the City’s coat of arms. Unfortunately, it no longer exists.

In 1914 Lord Mayor Alderman Richards stated that ‘in many cases persons would prefer drinking at a fountain to slaking their thirst at a bar, and more fountains would at least be a small set-off to the dangerous temptations of the public-house.’

Drinking fountain number 8 was 9 feet 6 inches high and consisted of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals united with arches formed of decorated mouldings.

Rope moulded cartouches within each lunette hosted the image of a crane, and an open bible displayed 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.’ 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 was surmounted by an open filigree dome, the finial being a crown with a pattée cross.

Under the canopy stood the original font (design number 7) 5 feet 8 inches high. The basin which had a scalloped edge and decorative relief was 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 was a crane.

Initially, an iron tap regulated the flow of water and was retrieved with pewter drinking cups. In the interest of hygiene circa 1916, the cups were removed and the font was replaced with a bubbler so named because it produced a flow of bubbling water. The bubblers were produced by John Danks & Co.

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.

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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