Lisburn’s Wallace Fountains

Location: Lisburn, Co. Antrim, Ireland

Sir Richard Wallace was a wealthy English art collector, philanthropist and Member of Parliament for Lisburn, Northern Ireland from 1873 to 1885 before retiring in Paris, France. When the Franco Prussian war damaged many of the aqueducts in Paris there remained little access to clean water for many of the most needy Parisians. His solution to this problem was the erection of public drinking fountains.

The famous Caratyd drinking fountains were manufactured by the Val d’Osne Foundry from a work of art by the French sculptor, Charles-Auguste Lebourg, in 1872. A stamp is visible on the fountain: Ch. Lebourg SC 1872.

Sir Richard donated five fountains to his former parliamentary constituency at Lisburn in 1876. Each was to be placed in a working class district of the city.

  1. at the junction of Market Place and Bow Street;
  2. in Market Square;
  3. in the Castle Gardens, which remains in its original position;
  4. at the junction of Seymour Street, Low Road and Millbrook, in front of the Seymour Street Methodist Church;
  5. in the Wallace Park, main walk.

During the war years three of the fountains were dismantled to accommodate the demand for metal to make armaments. Numbers 2 and 3 are the only remaining fountains.

The fountain at Market Square was relocated to Wallace Gardens circa 1922 to allow for the erection of a monument to General John Nicholson. Vandalised in the 1970s and 1980s it was returned to Market Square where the monument and fountain resided in a sunken garden. In 2013 the fountain was returned to its previous home in Wallace Park.

The Castle Gardens and its Wallace fountain were restored by Lisburn City Council with a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The base of the famous forest green fountain (the colour chosen to blend in with parks and trees) is a Greek cross plinth with canted corners from which the pedestal arises. An elaborate console decorated with a scallop shell from which a string of pearls flows separates four column panels on which the image of a water serpent is coiled around a trident. The trident is associated with the mythological Poseidon who struck the earth and water sprung up. A scallop is symbolic of baptism and fertility, and pearls represent purity and wisdom.

A cornice contains the name of the manufacturer, Val D’Osne, and another records the name of the sculptor, Ch. Lebourg SC / 1872. Four caratytids, each subtly different in posture and dress, stand with raised arms to support a fish scale dome with fleur-de-lys cornice. The four dolphins with entwined tails at the apex are a symbolic protector of all things related to water.

The statues in feminine form represent kindness, simplicity, charity and sobriety (at a time when the Temperance Movement was very active.) They also represent the 4 seasons: Simplicity symbolizes spring, Charity: summer, Sobriety: autumn and Kindness: winter. The statues differ from each other in several other ways: Simplicity and Sobriety have their eyes closed; whereas the eyes of Kindness and Charity are open. They are also different in the position of the knee and feet, or by the manner in which their tunic is knotted at the bodice.

A stream of water descended from the interior of the dome into a basin. Tin cups were originally chained to the fountains until public hygiene became a prevalent social issue.


  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • Caryatid, a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head
  • Cornice, a molding or ornamentation that projects from the top of a building
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.

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