Hawthorn Leslie Shipyard Fountain

Location: Hebburn, Tyne and Wear, England

A cast iron drinking fountain for use by shipyard workers was mounted on a wall on Ellison Street at the entrance to the Hawthorn Leslie Shipyard. The fountain identified by me as ‘lost’ because it is no longer visible was actually stolen from the derelict building in 2005.

The fountain was from a design by brothers William and Thomas Wills of Suffolk who were noted sculptors in the mid 19th. century and best known for their designs of drinking fountains. It was manufactured by Emley and Walker of Newcastle. Once recorded as a Grade II historic building it was delisted in 2014.

The cast iron frame is in the form of a stylized shield with curved and winged edges. The top part of the shield, in the form of an ogee arch, contains a sculpture of winged cherubs resting upon clouds. Beneath the cherub is a legend, He Opened The Rock And / The Waters Gushed Out / They Ran In The Dry Places / Like A River / Psalm CV 41.

A recessed round arch contained the drinking well and the name of the sculptors, Wills Brothers Sculpt London. Water was dispersed into the basin via a spigot concealed behind a clam shell decoration situated in the interior of the arch.

Each side of the arch is decorated with reeds and foliage. On the left side is a robed male figure with long beard standing contrapposto. In his left hand is a rod resting on the cusp of the arch. This is a depiction of Moses striking the rock to release gushing water. On the right of the drinking well is the robed figure of a woman offering a basin of water to a naked child.

Glossary:

  • Contrapposto, stance where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed
  • Ogee arch, an arch with a concave apex
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