Location: Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Northern Ireland
The market place in the town of Carrickfergus lay within a triangle formed by the castle, the friary and St Nicholas’ Church. In its centre were a market cross called Great Patrick, and a market house which became the original Town Hall in 1843 until 1936.
A drinking fountain with a large gas lamp was installed on 19 November 1881 near the site of the old market cross on the High Street. It stood at the location of the old market house and was known locally as the Big Lamp. It became a meeting place, “Meet you at the Big Lamp”, and men gathered around it to discuss the news during World War One.
Throughout the decades, the drinking fountain was modified; the big lamp was replaced with a central globe and three downward facing lanterns in the early 1930s, most likely coinciding with the introduction of electricity. Road signs to direct motor traffic were attached to the pedestal around the same time period.
Images from 1952 show that the original font with finial was removed, probably to install a more hygienic bubbler type fountain.
In 1955 it was struck by a truck and damaged prompting its removal. An inaccurate replica of the drinking fountain was erected in 1990 in Victoria Place not far from its original location.
The original drinking fountain, design number 3 from George Smith & Co.’s Sun Foundry, consisted of four columns with obelisk finials rising from a three tiered plinth to support a domed canopy. The interior column connectors to the dome were adorned with descending alligators and leafy decoration. Alligators were considered a symbol of evil and were hung from the ceilings of cabinets as a reminder of the mortality of humanity.
Arch faceplates with drip fret detail offered a flat surface for inscriptions in raised metal letters; civic virtues such as temperance were extolled on many drinking fountains. Over each arch, cartouches within each lunette offered commemorative dedication or crests.
On top of the solid dome was a pedestal braced by four secondary posts to support an oversized lantern made by George Bray, a prominent manufacturer and trader of gas burners and lamps. Bray’s Patent flat flame gas lantern was windproof, tapered downwards so as to avoid throwing a shadow on the ground in the immediate vicinity of the lamp post, and had reflectors in the top of the case to increase the illumination from the gas jet.
Standing within the canopy was a font customized from the standard design. A fluted pedestal and wide basin (pattern #11) was surmounted by the finial from pattern #7; a sculptured urn with two shell motif spouts. Water was collected with two drinking cups suspended on chains from elaborate consoles. A pointed enrichment terminated the structure.
- 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
- Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
- Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
- Fluted, a long rounded groove
- Fret, running or repeated ornament
- 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
- Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.