Edward Denis De Vitre Memorial Fountain

Location: Lancaster, England

Edward Denis De Vitre was a philanthropist with incredible community spirit. In 1840 he was Chairman of the Lancaster Gas Company. However, he is most famous as a doctor who in 1842 was a consulting physician at Lancaster Asylum and was a great proponent for the cause of the mentally afflicted. He became one of the founders of Royal Albert Asylum for Idiots and Imbeciles of the Northern Counties.

He was elected Mayor in 1843 and again in1855. In 1845 he was also active in the committee of the Lancaster Canal, and by 1853 he was Director of West Hartlepool Harbour and Railway Company. He was a Justice of the Peace for the Borough and County of Lancaster, and in 1864 he was elected President of the Lancashire and Cheshire Branch of the British Medical Association. It is not difficult to imagine why a large procession accompanied his coffin to the Lancaster Cemetery in 1878.

A drinking fountain and lamp was erected in his memory in 1880 outside the old town hall in Market Street. The structure was seated on a large square plinth bordered by four cast iron guard posts, and bore an inscription: Presented To The Shareholders Of The Lancaster Gas Company 1880 In Memory Of Edward Denis De Vitre , M.D., 40 Years Chairman Of The Company

It was relocated some time before 1903 per photographic evidence and installed in Queen’s Square near King Street until 1942 when it was permanently removed. An obstacle to motor traffic is the most likely reason for its removal, in addition to public awareness of water sanitation.

The fountain was design number 194 registered to George Smith & Co. manufactured by the Sun Foundry of Glasgow. The original structure was 17 feet 2 inches high. The pedestal with chamfered edge hosted four panels containing a lion mascaron with self-closing tap from which water spouted into demi-lune basins. Drinking water was captured in metal cups suspended on chains. Overflow water drained into small troughs at ground level for dogs.

A frieze of acanthus leaves was situated beneath the capital upon which there was a lamp standard with a base of four decorative scrolls. The pedestal had a bulbous base with bas-relief extending into a fluted column with bands. A two tiered acroter supported decorative yoke maintenance arms and a tapered hexagon glass lantern.

Glossary:

  • Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
  • Acroter, flat base
  • Bas-relief, sculpted material that has been raised from the background to create a slight projection from the surface
  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Chamfer, a beveled edge
  • Compass cross, a cross of equal vertical and horizontal lengths, concentric with and overlaying a circle.
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Yoke maintenance arms, the bars near the top of a street light which supported the lamplighter’s ladder

 

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