Caldbeck Memorial Fountain

Location: The Square, Portlaw, County Waterford, Ireland

19th century Portlaw claimed to be one of the best laid-out industrial villages in Ireland with wide streets radiating from a central square. In 1887, a drinking fountain was erected in Market Square outside the former Post Office in remembrance of William Robert Caldbeck, a local postmaster, weighing scales operator and shopkeeper, who died on 5th February 1887.

Circa 1887. Source: Facebook/Portlaw Heritage Centre

Circa 1887. Source: Facebook/Portlaw Heritage Centre

Although local information states that the fountain was cast in the Mayfield Foundry this is unlikely, as the structure is a customized design by Walter Macfarlane’s manufactured at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow. It was probably shipped unassembled and constructed in the local foundry.

The fountain is constructed of font number 18, a wide base in the form of a Greek cross with canted corners. Four lion jambs support four elaborately decorated quatrefoil basins.

2005

2005

The fountain is constructed of font number 18, a wide base in the form of a Greek cross with canted corners. Four lion jambs support four elaborately decorated quatrefoil basins.

The stanchion and central column are decorated with acanthus and floral relief. The circular shaft (design number 32) offers two shields for dedications: Erected / by many friends / in memory of / William Robert Caldbeck /who died / 5th February / 1887, and four consoles from which drinking cups were suspended on chains.

Used with permission, Sean O’Brien. Source: http://www.portlaw.info/

The capital supports a single ringed column with a base of four griffin feet used as a transition piece to allow for the addition of lamp pillar number 6 with lantern number 220. Decorative yoke maintenance arms sit below a round globe originally lit by gas. The finial is a spike.

Used with permission, Sean O’Brien. Source: http://www.portlaw.info/

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Lions are symbolic of guardianship, and griffins represent guardians of priceless possessions.

The original location of the fountain was in the street outside the post office at Market Square. It was housed in a shallow circular recess trimmed with rope detail. The shallow recess served two purposes: to prevent water overflow from soaking the street, and to prevent accidental bumping of the structure by carts, bicycles, etc.

Circa 1887. Used with permission. National Library of Ireland

Circa 1887. Used with permission. National Library of Ireland

In 1990 the fountain was moved to the centre of the Square, renamed Malcolmson Square in 2005, (the Malcolmson family were the founders of Portlaw and the nearby cotton mill at Mayfield.)

National Inventory of Archictural Heritage. Source: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/niah/search.jsp?type=record&county=WA&regno=22803037

National Inventory of Archictural Heritage. Source: http://www.buildingsofireland.ie/

During restoration the pump mechanisms were found to be intact. The main part of the structure was installed in a circular pond in the Square in September 2009. It is seated on a Greek cross stone plinth to keep the cast iron structure above water level. A replacement lamp using electric light was installed in 2010 to complete the restoration.

Many thanks to Sean O’Brien who gave me valuable assistance.

Glossary

  • Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Greek cross, a cross with arms of equal length
  • Griffin, winged lion denotes vigilance and strength, guards treasure and priceless possessions
  • Jamb, a projecting vertical post containing sculpture
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests
  • Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter
  • Stanchion, an upright bar or post providing support
  • Yoke maintenance arms, the bars near the top of a street light which supported the lamplighter’s ladder
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