Townsend Drinking Fountain

Location: Glenelg, Adelaide, South Australia

A drinking fountain erected in Colley Reserve was presented to the Mayor by William Townsend, Esq., M.P. The fountain was erected at the centre of the reserve running parallel with the northern seawall and the HMS Buffalo cannon. It was officially opened by Mrs. Townsend on 20 October, 1877, who stated, ‘I now declare the fountain open to the Mayor, burgesses and the public generally, and as we learn from the best authority that cold water is to the thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country, so often while people are drinking the water here they will see the mail coming in bringing news from the far countries.’

The fountain was relocated to the front garden of Partridge House which was recorded as a State Heritage Place in the SA Heritage Register on November 1986.

In its original location drinking fountain number 8, from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue, was seated on a two tiered plinth. The structure with a gas lit lantern was 9 feet 6 inches high and consisted of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals unite with arches formed of decorated mouldings (the griffins no longer exist on the structure).

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.’ Crests within the lunettes offer dedication and coats of arms. 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 original finial being a gas lit lantern. A photograph shows that the finial was later replaced by a crown with a pattée cross. However, the current structure now contains a lantern very similar to the original casting.

Under the canopy the original the font (design number 7) was 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 supply of water was replaced with a bubbler. The font’s terminal which was a crane is no longer present on the structure.

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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