Saracen Cross Fountain

Location: Possilpark, Glasgow, Scotland

Located at the intersection of Saracen Street, Balmore Road and Bardowie Street known as Saracen Cross, this drinking fountain canopy was manufactured at the Saracen Foundry in Possilpark. Originally a drinking fountain it was restored by Heritage Engineering in 1999 and painted in the colours of Glasgow City Council (green and gold).

The canopied drinking fountain is design number 21 (18 feet by 4 feet) from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalog, (a bronze plaque incorrectly states it is number 18.) Seated on a two tiered octagonal plinth, the canopy is supported by eight columns with griffin terminals which are positioned over capitals with foliage frieze above square bases. During restoration incorrect griffin model with outstretched wings was applied (this model was associated with canopy number 8 which had 4 columns and the outstretched wings lay on the arches.) The pattern for canopy 21 should contain griffins with wings tucked in to the side.

A bronze plaque located at the base of one of the columns was erected by Heritage Engineering and Glasgow City Council.
Close to this location stood the Saracen Foundry of Walter Macfarlane & Co. Ltd., one of the world’s leading architectural iron founders.  Bandstands, fountains, buildings and decorative ironwork were exported from here to all corners of the globe. Canopies can be seen in Australia, Tasmania, Brazil, Vancouver and India.
Heritage Engineering incorporating Walter Macfarlane, & Co. Ltd., restored this fountain canopy no. 18 with Glasgow City Council in 2001 to commemorate the important role this industry played in Glasgow’s history.

The highly decorated cusped arches are trimmed with rope mouldings which display lunettes with alternate images of cranes and swans, or optional memorial shields. On each side arch faceplates provide a flat surface for 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.

Doves and flowers offer decorative relief on the circular, open filigree, ribbed dome. The internal capitals are floral ornament. The structure is surmounted with a crown and a pattée cross.

The missing font under the canopy was casting number 7. The 5 ft 8ins high font was 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 was engraved with decorative relief, and a sculptured vase was terminated by the figure of a crane. Four elaborate consoles supported 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.

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Glossary

  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Cusped Arch, the point of intersection of lobed or scalloped forms
  • Filigree, fine ornamental work
  • 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
  • Pattée cross, a cross with arms that narrow at the centre and flare out at the perimeter
  • 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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