Lyle Drinking Fountain

Location: Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland

In the early part of the 19th century, the Lyle family was occupied in the commerce of coopering (barrel making) and shipping; they owned fishing smacks (English sailing vessels used to bring fish to market.) Abram Lyle inherited the business from his father, and with the assistance of several partners he bought a sugar refinery in Greenock in 1865. He also created a shipping line named the Cape Line. When he was denied anchorage in Greenock Harbour to transport sugar from the West Indies, he relocated his business to England in 1882. Henry Tate operated a sugar refinery in England, and many years later in 1921 Abram Lyle’s grandson merged with Henry Tate & Sons to become Tate & Lyle, world famous for sugar and syrup.

In addition to being a businessman, Abram was the Town Provost of Greenock from 1876-1879. Abram donated a drinking fountain to the town which was erected in Cathcart Square in 1880 .

The structure is seated on a three level octagonal plinth. Six Corinthian columns with attic base support a highly decorated open filigree dome. The capital of each column, studded with alternating circles and diamond shapes, extends beyond the capital and ends with a corona finial. At the top of the dome a spire emerges from plant foliage with open filigree crowns and a small orb at the apex.

Crests of 18 prominent families of Greenock, some of which are Ardgowan, Cartsburn, Fairlie, Stewart, Morton, Steele, Watt, and Wood, are visible along the frieze and the central point of each arch.

The font standing on a circular plinth displays an inscription, This Fountain Given To The Inhabitants of Greenock By Abram Lyle Provost 1879. A central pedestal supports a two tiered basin structure, the larger basin being on the bottom, and a smaller basin in which stands a terminal of two fish. Relevance of the fish is probably related to the Lyle family being involved in the commerce of fishing.

There is no evidence of the manufacturer of the drinking fountain. However, there are several castings similar to the Lion Foundry, (and the cast iron coronas on the red sandstone buildings of Sandringham Terrace are also a Lion Foundry design), leads me to believe that the fountain designed by Mr. F.A. Scudamore of Coventry was probably cast by the Lion Foundry of Kirkintilloch.

Image notes

  • In the postcard image, the column terminals appear to contain gas lamp globes.
  • In the 1966 image the original fountain has been replaced by a bubbler (a tap that releases a jet of water), and  a single pedestal with a small white basin. Suspended from the column terminals there would appear to be canisters for lights.
  • In the 1977 image the original font design has been resurrected. The family crests are not in position.


  • Attic base, a column base with two rings
  • Bubbler, a fountain with a tap
  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Corinthian Column, a fluted shaft with flowers and leaves at the capital.
  • Corona, a crown
  • 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 entablature just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • 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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