Burslem Fountain

Location: Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, England

James Maddock J.P. was a businessman and a philanthropist who made donations to the Wedgewood Institute and the Haywood Hospital. He also held the position of Mayor of Burslem for two years. He donated the drinking fountain to the town in 1881. It is located at the centre of St. John’s Square.

This cast iron fountain cast by the Coalbrookdale Iron Company rests on a three tiered square plinth of kerridge stone, the base of which is put together with bricks and blue lias (blue lias consists of a sequence oflimestoneandshalelayers). The height of the structure is 14 ft. 6 ins. and originally had a copper bronze appearance.

The square base with chamfered corners offers two basins on opposite sides. The second tier of the fountain is an encased dome surrounded by arches and short pedestals with floral decoration. Four Corinthian columns with attic base rise from the pedestals to support an abacus from which a central fluted column rises. Two dolphins are intertwined at the base of the column which has a lamp terminal. The original gas lamp was a globe with gilt bands.

Today, lunettes between each column contain alternating lion masks with rings and elephant masks from which water pours into the basins. However, the original design did not have elephant masks and contained four lion heads. Water flowing from the basins descended to a small trough below for the use of dogs. The central terminal is a reeded vase with handles in the form of intertwined snakes. Originally the vase was interlaced with gold foliage and the snake handles were also gilt.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Lions are acknowledged as guardians, elephants are a symbol of peace, snakes are potent guardians of sacred spaces, and dolphins are guardians of all things water related.

According to a Staffordshire Times newspaper article dated August 27, 1881, an underground passage was created beneath the fountain to permit repair to pipes without the need to dismantle the fountain.

“The MAYOR then stepped forward, and addressing the crowd he said he had looked forward to that day with very great pleasure, that he might hand over to the town what he promised to do in November. For a long time he had had a wish to do something for his town – the town in which his father worked so many years, and with such great success, and with which his (the Mayor’s) interests were so closely identified. He had also worked to do some good for his fellow-townsmen. There had been many good examples set them by benefactors to the town in various ways by natives and residents, and when he considered the form his gift had taken, he thought he could not do better than present the town with a drinking fountain. He hoped it would be acceptable, and an advantage to the people of Burslem, and that they would find a service in years to come.” Staffordshire Times August 27, 1881.

In August 1984 the fountain was abandoned in the corner of a factory yard near the top of Newcastle Street. It remained there for many years until it was restored and erected once more at Fountain Place in 1990. An inscription on the edge of the plinth states, On 25th April 1990 Francis Fitzherbert. The Lord Stafford, formally marked the restoration to the site of the Burslem drinking fountain by the Stoke-on-Trent City Council and the Burslem Preservation Society in conjunction with Stephen Bambury of Co-Bam Ltd. The original fountain was presented by James Maddock.A local pottery manufacturer when he was Mayor of Burslem in 1881 & 1883.


  • Abacus, at the top of a capital, a thick rectangular slab of stone that serves as the flat, broad surface
  • Attic base, a column base with two rings
  • Corinthian columns, a fluted shaft with flowers and leaves at the capital
  • 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

In gratitude
Many thanks to Mervyn Edwards (Committee, Burslem History Club) for his assistance at the Newspaper Archives.

Image Sources







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