The Fountains of Whitehaven

Location: Whitehaven, Cumbria, England

On 12 May 1859, Mrs. Bateman Wilson, wife of the chairman of the Water Committee, formally received a cup of water from the first drinking fountain erected in Whitehaven. Located in the centre of Green Market it served many involved in the sale and purchase of market goods. The fountain was cast iron painted dark green with griffin mascarons. A jet of fresh glacial water from Ennerdale Lake spouted from the mouth of a mascaron, and was captured in one of two drinking vessels, a white shell patterned ladle suspended by a chain.

To provide the public with fresh sanitary drinking water, a fountain was also erected at Sugar Tongue Quay to slake the thirst of longshoremen who unloaded sugar from West Indies. It was removed in 1899. Three additional fountains were erected adjoining the old churchyard of St. Nicholas at Queen Street, at the intersection of Church Street and George Street, and at Albion Street near the foundry in Newtown.

Bransty Arch

Bransty Arch

The fountain inset to the wall of Bransty Arch was removed in 1925. Two years later the arches which had become an obstacle to bus transportation were also removed.

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The fountain on Lowther Street (Flatt Walks) near the entrance to Castle Park is identical to the wall inset fountain that graced the Bransty Arch. Cast iron detail is representative of Glenfield & Kennedy’s iron foundry in Glasgow. The fountain supplied water from the mouth of a lion mascaron which was then captured in a demi-lune fluted basin. A similar basin at ground level for the use of dogs was sheltered by an upturned fluted basin. The centre of the fountain contains the date 1859, a shield displaying the Lowther Coat of Arms (also incorporated into the town of Whitehaven’s crest) and the name of the town WHITEHAVEN.

Drinking fountain on wall of Bransty Arch

Drinking fountain on wall of Bransty Arch

As part of Whitehaven’s regeneration and the Quest Art Trail Project, the fountain was restored in 1997 with the addition of a modern sculpture created by John McKenna which represents a miner stepping out of the wall with a whippet at his feet.

Creative Commons License, Julian Osley. Source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4047576

Creative Commons License, Julian Osley. Source: http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/4047576

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On Tangier Street, a stone drinking fountain with horse trough was erected outside the Cumberland Motor Services (CMS) bus station. It was commissioned in memory of Robert Fisher, one of Lord Lowther’s horse trainers, and manager of the Whitehaven cab company. Two iron spigots which protruded from the pedestal allowed humans to drink and filled the trough with water.

Cumberland Motor Services bus station

Cumberland Motor Services bus station

CMS bus station on Tangier Street

CMS bus station on Tangier Street

The structure was moved to Castle Park in the 1970s. The structure with fish scale domed roof which stood in the center of an octagonal horse trough was originally surmounted with a two globe lamppost. Bas-relief on one of the octagonal panels is the left facing profile of a horse’s head within scrollwork, and a second panel with bas-relief contains a left facing profile of a horse’s head within a circle. A third panel contains a commemorative inscription: This / Fountain Was / Erected By / The Friends Of / Robert Fisher / Who Died / 1st February 1911 / Aged 87 Years / As A Memorial / Of The High / Esteem In Which / He Was Held / As A Genial / Townsman & A / Fine Sportsman / Who Was Devoted / To Horses.

Memorial to Robert Fisher

Memorial to Robert Fisher

Castle Park

Castle Park

Also on Tangier Street, an identical fountain/horse trough terminating in a lamp terminal was erected outside the Grand Hotel on Tangier Street

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Glossary:

  • Bas-relief, sculpted material that has been raised from the background to create a slight projection from the surface
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Fluted, a long rounded groove
  • Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • pedestal
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal
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