Location: Vernon Park, Stockport, Greater Manchester.
In 1859, a drinking fountain paid by subscription from the workers of a local cotton mill was presented to the park. It featured an elaborate cast iron statue called ‘the Slave’. Designed by Coalbrookdale Co., it represents a Blackamoor, a popular art form of North African figures in the 18th and 19th century which celebrated Britain’s empire and the wealth generated by the slave trade.
The metal structure was removed to be used for armaments during World War II. The fountain in its present form is a recreation by Dorothea Restorations Ltd. in 2000 with funding from a Heritage Lottery Fund grant to restore Vernon Park.
The circular granite base seated on a square plinth contains a dedication; Presented / By The / Workpeople Of / Messrs R Greg & Co / Albert Mill / Reddish / AD 1859. The cornice moldings are egg and dart design, and the capital is edged with dentil molding.
The concave three sided cast iron structure straddles a stone font creating two demi-lune basins into which water spouts from the mouths of curly haired mascarons. A button press initiates the flow of water. Beneath one of the mascarons is a plate identifying Dorothea Restorations Ltd / Whaley Bridge & Bristol.
The statue is a young black child dressed in flowing robes which swath his head, back and legs. He is standing contrapposto with his arms upraised to support a large basin which is balanced on his head. His feet rest on an ornate pedestal with three bestial clawed feet. Each side of the pedestal is decorated with acanthus, shells, flora and the mascaron of human face.
- Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
- Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
- Contrapposto, stance where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed
- Cornice, a molding or ornamentation that projects from the top of a building
- Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
- Mask/Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
- Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.