Clock Tower Fountain

Location: Mitcham, Surrey, England

On 29 November 1899, a clock tower and cast iron drinking fountain was unveiled by James Salter White, chairman of the Croydon Rural District Council. The structure was funded by public subscription to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897.

It was erected on the site of the old village pump in an area which was a rally point for Evangelists and politicians, fundraising, and events such as recruitment for the war and the inspection of Red Cross nurses by visiting Royalty.

The structure was controversial as many residents were unhappy that the old pump had been removed, and the clock became well known for its unreliability due to condensation affecting the clock’s mechanism. It was not uncommon for each of the four faces to show a different time.

The drinking fountain erected on London Road adjacent to the Buck’s Head pub and opposite the King’s Arms was relocated several times within Fair Green to allow for regeneration of the area. A controversial move in 1994, part of London Road was closed to traffic to create a pedestrian area and market place. It is within this pedestrian area that the structure is currently situated.

On 2 September 1988, it was listed as a Grade II historic building. In 2014 funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund enabled the town to undertake restoration of the historic structure; a water supply was connected to the drinking fountain, a new weather vane was installed, and the clock was refurbished by Surrey-based specialist clock makers Gillett & Johnston (the clock hands are not to the original design).

The newly restored structure was erected on 26th August 2015 with bespoke lanterns installed in 2016 to illuminate the clock face. (The original four gas lamps were replaced during the advent of electricity.)

The structure manufactured by McDowall Steven & Co. Ltd. is approximately 7m high and was seated on a two tiered octagonal plinth originally with two dog troughs at ground level. Two large demi-lune basins protrude from the pedestal beneath which the maker’s nameplate is visible, McDowall Steven & Co. / Limited / London & Glasgow.

2008-3 mitcham

Four dolphins (dolphins are a symbolic protector of all things related to water) at each corner of the stanchion create sections decorated with a shell pattern, floral relief and a crest engraved V.R. 1897 which is a reference to the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Two drinking cups were once suspended on chains.

The capital supports a fluted lamp column with attic base. The column is decorated with swags, a shield bearing a cross and stylized flowers flanked by leaves. Four consoles offered a gas light source from a glass paned lantern the top of which was decorated with palmette relief and a terminal resembling castle turrets.

Four beaded consoles divided by a flower sit just beneath the four clock faces. Each clock panel is bound by fan spandrels. A gable roof is adorned by a spike at each peak and bas-relief of a crown in the pediment.

A closed urn with four knob pendants supports a weather vane with directional compass points and a directional arrow with butterfly wings.

 

Glossary:

  • Attic base, a column base with two rings
  • 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
  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Fluted, a long rounded groove
  • Gable, triangular portion of a wall between edges of a dual pitched roof
  • Palmette, a decorative motif resembling the fan shaped leaves of a palm tree
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Pediment, an element in architecture consisting of a gable placed above a horizontal structure supported by columns
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
  • Spandrel, the triangular space between two arches
  • Stanchion, upright bar, post or frame providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal
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