Dolphin Fountain

Location: Preston, Lancashire, England

In the mid 19th century, within the south east corner of Avenham Park close to the Old Tram Bridge, an arched recess was built into sandstone to house a natural spring which had the reputation of never running dry and being so pure that it could cure ailments. In the 1870s a drinking fountain was erected over the spring to allow the public improved access to the crystal clear water.

The fountain consisted of a dolphin sculptured in serpentine (a dark green mineral consisting of hydrated magnesium silicate, sometimes mottled or spotted like a snake’s skin). Water flowed from the mouth of the dolphin into a white marble basin in the shape of a shell.

Due to analysis of the spring water in the 1880s a very high percentage of animal matter was discovered; and the spring was therefore diverted from the fountain with the intention of piping water from the nearby town of Longridge.

In the mid 20th century, two conflicting events occurred: the fountain structure disappeared leaving only a protruding pipe, and the stone well was recorded as a Grade II historic listing on 27 September 1979.

A 21st century multi-million pound restoration project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the North West Regional Development Agency to regenerate Preston’s parks included a proposal to restore the historic drinking fountain. Consent was received to alter the listed structure, and a replica of the Dolphin Fountain was created in cast iron with a demi-lune fluted basin. The fountain was once again connected to the natural underground spring and installation was completed in 2011.

Although the sculpture resembles a sea serpent, this figurine is relatively common in the Victorian period and was representative of a dolphin. They were recognized as a good omen and a symbol of protection.


  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Fluted, a long rounded groove decorating



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