Austin Lines Drinking Fountain

Location: Handsworth Park, Birmingham, England

When the park opened in 1888, it was named Victoria Park. The grounds were originally part of the Grove Estate containing 20 acres of gardens, aviaries, vineries, fishpond, conservatory, and a tennis lawn which became a bowling green when the land was converted into a public park following a contentious issue that took several years to settle. A major proponent of the park was Councillor Austin B. Lines who donated the drinking fountain.

The original location of the fountain, known as the Umbrella,  was east of the Grove (Park House) across from the bowling green. It was moved to its current location in the 1950s.

The canopied drinking fountain is number 21 from Walter Macfarlane’s catalog manufactured at the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland. Seated on a two tiered octagonal plinth, the canopy is supported by eight columns with griffin terminals. The highly decorated fret detail arches are trimmed with rope mouldings. Rope moulded roundels contained within each lunette offer shields for memorial. A dedication shield can be seen in old photographs. The remaining lunettes contained cranes.

The highly decorated cusped arches are trimmed with rope mouldings which display lunettes with images of a crane and a memorial shield. On each side, arch faceplates provided a flat surface for an inscription using raised metal letters; often the useful monition, Keep The Pavement Dry. Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains. The ribbed dome is open filigree decorated with dove and flower relief. The internal capitals are floral ornament, and the internal shields display lion masks. A kylix obelisk finial is at the apex.

Doves and flowers offer decorative relief on the circular, open filigree, ribbed dome. The internal capitals contain flowers.. The openwork iron canopy is surmounted with a vase and spiked obelisk finial.

Under the canopy stands font casting number 7. The 5 ft 8ins high font is a single decorative pedestal with four pilasters and descending salamander relief supporting a basin 2 ft 6 ins in diameter. The interior surface of the scalloped edge basin is engraved with decorative relief, and a sculptured vase is terminated by the figure of a crane. Four elaborate consoles support drinking cups on chains.

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.

Glossary

  • 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
  • Cusped Arch, the point of intersection of lobed or scalloped forms
  • 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
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • 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
  • Obelisk, a tall, four-sided, narrow tapering monument which ends in a pyramid-like shape at the top
  • 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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