Shildon Drinking Fountain

Location: Shildon, Durham, England

The 19th century drinking fountain located in Timothy Hackworth Park was donated by the Committee of the Old Shildon Workingmen’s Club for the enjoyment of the people of Shildon.

Erected in 1914, the canopied drinking fountain is design number 21 (18 feet by 4 feet) from Walter Macfarlane &Co.’s catalog manufactured by the Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland. 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.


The structure was listed as a Grade II historic building on 24 February 1986. The structure deteriorated over time and the griffins were stolen.


Photograph taken 13 March 2001 © Mr Alan Bradley LRPS

During refurbishment of the park in 2003, the drinking fountain was also restored. The highly decorated cusped arches are trimmed with rope mouldings which display lunettes with alternate images of cranes and optional memorial shields. The shields in this instance display the Royal George Engine, the first steam engine cheaper than horse power, which was designed by Timothy Hackworth, a pioneering railway engineer. A second shield is inscribed Presented / To The / Inhabitants Of Shildon / By The / Members Of The Old Shildon / Workmen’s Club / November / 1914. There is also a shield commemorating the mining profession which was predominant in the area.

On each side arch faceplates provided 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 which 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 originally supported drinking cups on chains. Water flowed from a spout into the drinking cup by pressing its edge against a projecting stud below the spout. The self-closing valve allowed for operation with only one hand. The cups were removed due to recurring epidemics of Scarlet Fever which spread quickly and was often fatal.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions; lions are symbolic of guardianship; and doves are synonymous with peace. Cranes are recognized as a symbol of vigilance and are often depicted standing on one leg while holding a stone in the claws of the other foot. Legend states that if the watchful crane fell asleep the stone would fall and waken the bird.


  • 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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