Sydney’s Fountains

Location: Sydney, Australia

Mayor Renny chose the design for the fountain from an illustrated catalogue of Walter Macfarlane & Co., ordering eight drinking fountains for the city of Sydney. They arrived in July 1870. Historical documents reveal that another two fountains were purchased sometime later.

  • Green Park, Darlinghurst Road
  • Wentworth Park, East end
  • Wentworth Park, West end
  • Prince’s Street near the Public school
  • Hunter Street and O’Connell Street
  • Loftus House at Custom House
  • Moore Park, Randwick Road
  • Moore Park, Cleveland Street
  • Prince Alfred Park, Exhibition building
  • Beare Park, Elizabeth Bay

Drinking fountains at Loftus House (Macquarie Place), Beare Park and Railway Square have been previously documented. You can view them by using the search box on the home page.

Drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue was manufactured at the Saracen Foundry at Possilpark in Glasgow. The structure is 9 feet 6 inches high and consists of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals unite with arches formed of decorated mouldings.

Rope moulded cartouches contained within each lunette host the image of a crane, and 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.’ The remaining two lunettes contain the City of Sydney Coat of Arms: a shield charged with a ship and beehive and working bees, surmounted by a mural crown impaled with a pick-axe surmounted by a star. The sinister supporter is an aboriginal native with a spear; the dexter supporter an English sailor. 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 finial being a crown with a pattée cross.

Under the canopy stood the font (design number 7) 5 foot 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. The original font no longer exists and has been replaced with bubblers.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic ofguardians 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
  • 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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Image Sources

In Gratitude
Many thanks to ‘PellethePoet’ who supplied me with links to 19th century photographs at the NSW archives


Posted on July 14, 2014, in Architecture, Australia, Cast Iron, Drinking Fountain, Saracen Foundry and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. You can see the one that was on Princes Street outside the Fort Street High School in the distance of this 1901 photo (you’ll need to look at the large size) –

    A couple of years ago I started collating a list of old photos that showed glimpses of the Cast Iron Canopy Drinking Fountains in their original locations, but I seem to have mislaid it. I’ll let you know if I find it!

    • That is terrific to see it in the distance. I’d love to see your old canopy fountain photos. Thanks for sharing this interest.

  2. Here we go, not a very extensive list, but I think you’ll like them! Not including the one mentioned above I found 6 contemporary photos of 4 of the fountains –

    Prince’s street, near Public School

    Hunter street and O’Connell street

    Moore Park, at pillar entrance, Randwick road

    Prince Alfred Park, at Exhibition Building

    I really must get back to the hunt for more of them …

  3. I’m glad you appreciate them. Just a little attribution correction on one of the photos. ‘1901 Princes Street near Public School. Source: State Library New South Wales’ should read ‘Source: State Records Authority New South Wales’.

  4. Here’s another one I just stumbled upon (I think the album has only recently been digitized by the State Library). See: 19. Drinking fountain near Fort St School

  5. Thanks. I will check this out. Currently working on Benson Memorial Fountain in Adelaide. Should be posting in a couple of days.

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