Barrhead Co-operative Society Fountains

Location: Barrhead, Renfrewshire, Scotland

In 1896 the Barrhead Co-operative Society celebrated thirty five years in operation. In appreciation, three drinking fountains were purchased. On 13th March 1897 two fountains were erected in Barrhead presented by the President of the Society. The third fountain was presented by the Vice President to the parish of Neilston on 8th May 1897.

Currently there is a cast iron canopy at the gatehouse entrance to Cowan Park in Barrhead. As the park did not open until 1911 this is not the original location. I have been unable to find the original locations in Barrhead. However, an ordnance survey shows a drinking fountain located near the turning circle of Neilston Cemetery on the 1913 and 1947 maps.

The drinking fountain in Neilston was erected on Main Street.

Drinking fountain number 3 from George Smith & Co.’s Sun Foundry is 9 feet 10 inches high. The structure consists of four columns with obelisk finials rising from a double plinth to support a domed canopy. The interior column connectors to the dome are adorned with descending alligators and leafy decoration. Alligators were considered a symbol of evil and were hung from the ceilings of cabinets as a reminder of the mortality of humanity.


Arch faceplates with drip fret detail offer a flat surface for inscriptions in raised metal letters; civic virtues such as temperance were extolled on many drinking fountains. Over each arch, cartouches within each lunette offer commemorative dedication or crests. Presented / To The / Commissioners Of / The Burgh Of / Barrhead / By The Barrhead / Co-Operative / Society Ltd. / 13th March 1897. A second lunette contains the image of a robed woman holding scales and a sword – representing justice and equality. She is encapsulated by the legend, The Barrhead Co-operative Society Limited.

Although unable to find photos of the original fountains in Barrhead, it is to be assumed that the drinking fountain in Neilston was of the same design, having been commissioned at the same time. The solid dome originally supported a lamp finial and covered the fluted pedestal and wide basin containing a putto holding an oar, seated on an upturned urn (casting number 8). A tap was fitted to the urn, and at the base of the pedestal was housed a small trough for dogs.


  • 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
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Finial, A sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Fret, Running or repeated ornament
  • Obelisk, A tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top
  • Plinth, Flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
  • Putto, A figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude



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