Formby Drinking Fountain

Location: Port Adelaide, South Australia, Australia

John Formby was a J.P. and the Mayor of Port Adelaide for four successive years, 1870-1873. As a mark of appreciation, a public subscription raised money ‘to order a handsome fountain from Scotland’. The location was chosen to serve the large number of men who frequently worked on North Parade opposite Nelson Street. It was unveiled on Saturday 27 May 1877 by the Mayor in the presence of Mr. Formby.

It was later moved to the entrance of the Port Dock Railway Station in an area where there was no clean drinking water.

The National Railway Museum stands on the former site of the Port Dock Railway Station on the corner of Lipson and St Vincent St and included the area where the Port Adelaide Police Station and Magistrates Court now stand. The fountain is currently located outside the Port Adelaide Police Complex at the intersection of St. Vincent St. and Lipson Street. A National Trust marker is set into the ground beneath the coat of arms.

Drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue was manufactured at the Saracen Foundry at Possilpark in Glasgow. The structure is seated on a three tiered plinth, the first from the ground was Macclesfield marble, and the other two were Mintaro slate. It 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.’ A dedication crest in one of the lunettes states, Erected / by public subscription / to / John Formby Esq. J.P. / Mayor / 1870-1-2&3. A second lunette displays the Coat of Arms for Port Adelaide, depicting a crest held by an Aboriginal man and a sailor with the motto Haud pluribus impaSecond to none.

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 stands the font (design number 7) 5 foot 8 inches high. The basin which has a scalloped edge and decorative relief is 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 offer drinking cups suspended by chains. The terminal was a crane.

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.


  • 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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