Sidney Column

Location: Southampton, Hampshire, England

A cast-iron drinking fountain with gas lamp erected at the junction of Six Dials in St Mary’s district was presented in 1882 by Councillor  Jonas Nichols to the Borough of Southampton. Nichols, a builder and railway contractor, commissioned the fountain to commemorate his son, Sidney, attaining the age of majority which at that time was 21 years. Nichols drank the first cup of water after it was unveiled.

It was relocated opposite the Kingsland Market in 1904 and remained at this location until 1954 when it was returned to Bevois Street sporting an electric lamp. Recorded as a Grade II listed building in 1981, it currently resides at the west end of Bevois Street in Jonas Nichol’s Square off St Mary’s Street.

In 2012 the City of Southampton Society donated approximately £5000 towards the refurbishment of the fountain as the structure had badly deteriorated.

The design was manufactured by Messrs. Steven Bros. & Co. of the Milton Ironworks, Glasgow and London (later to be known as McDowall, Steven & Co.’s Milton Works). The structure was originally seated on an ornamental plinth approximately 3 feet square standing upon a Portland stone base surrounded with granite stone kerbing. Between the kerbing and the base, bricks formed a radiating pattern 12 feet in diameter.

The drinking fountain supplied fresh water to animals and humans. Lion mascarons, a symbol of guardianship, spouted water that humans drank using metal cups suspended on consoles. On four sides a large quatrefoil basin for horses was fed with overflow water. A square base housed small demi-lune basins at ground level for dogs.

The highly decorated stanchion and central column were decorated with scrollwork, octupuses, starfish, and poppies. A dolphin, symbolizing guardians of water, flanked each side of the stanchion. The capital was inscribed with the legend, Presented To The Town / Of Southampton By / J. Nichols, Esq. / In Commemoration / Of His Son Attaining / His Majority / 28th June 1882.

The bulbous base of the 22 feet high lamp column contained four mascarons alternated with acanthus rising to a fluted Corinthian column enriched with leaves and fruit. The terminal was a gas lamp with Sugg’s patent three flame burners.


  • Acanthus, one of the most common plant forms (deeply cut leaves) to make foliage ornament and decoration
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Column Corinthian, a fluted shaft with flowers and leaves at the capital.
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • 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.
  • Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter
  • Stanchion, upright bar or post providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

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