Clifton Down Fountain

Location: Bristol, England

Located on Sion Hill at the junction of Gloucester Row and Observatory Road this drinking fountain was erected in 1866. It can be found on the south side of Clifton down near the suspension bridge.

Seated on a two tiered square granite plinth, drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue was manufactured at the Saracen Foundry at Possilpark in Glasgow, the most prolific architectural iron founders in the world. 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.

On each side, rope moulded cartouches within each lunette host images with arched faceplates containing inscriptions using raised metal letters. The coat of arms of the City and County of Bristol with its Latin motto Virtute Et Industria, translated as By Virtue And Industry, contains an inscription stating: Jesu, Like Streams From God Thy Spirit Give. This legend is also shown above a shield containing a cockle shell and the initials MCB. The third and fourth sides of the fountain contain the same Bible quotation i.e. Coming To Thee That We May Drink And Live. Amen. Jn XV 26 & VII.37. The third shield contains an inscription, To The Glory Of God In The Use Of Man & Beast; and the fourth shield displays a handshake accompanied by the phrase, The Receiver To The Givers Ever So We May Go. The structure is surmounted by an open filigree dome, the finial being a crown with a pattée cross.

Under the canopy there was originally a font (casting 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. A small basin at ground level was available for the use of dogs.The font was later (circa 1980) replaced with a bubbler type fountain which no longer exists.

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.

The structure was recorded as a British listed building, category Grade II, on 4 March 1977.


  • 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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