Every street in Sydney should have its drinking-fountain. It should be at least as easy to obtain a drink of pure water as a glass of milk or beer. Sydney is a sub-tropical city, and sometimes it is warm and sometimes it is dusty … Sydney should be a city of fountains.
(J. H. Maiden, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens to the 1909 Royal Commission on Improving Sydney)
In the first decades of the life of Sydney houses were built without water and without taps. Even as late as the mid twentieth century some old housing stock had only an outdoor tap in the back yard. And before the streets were full of cars and buses that drank petrol, they were the domain of horses that needed to drink water.
Drinking Fountains for the City.
At the suggestion, or order of the mayor, eight highly ornamented cast-iron drinking fountains have been imported by Mr. A. Chisholm, from Glasgow, where they were manufactured by Messrs. Walter Macfarlane, and Co., of the Saracen Foundry. The fountains stand about eight feet high.
The structure, which is pagoda-shaped, consists of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals unite with arches formed of decorated mouldings, encircling ornamental shields bearing the City Arms, a shield charged with a ship and beehive and working bees, surmounted by a mural crown impaled with a pick-axe surmounted by a star. The sinister supporter is an aboriginal native with a spear; the dexter supporter an English sailor. Motto, “I take, but I surrender.”
On two of the sides provision is made for receiving an inscription; whilst on the other two sides is the useful monition, “Keep the pavement dry.” Surmounting this is an open and highly enriched dome, the apex being occupied by a crown. Under the canopy stands the font with basin about two feet in diameter.
It has been suggested that if practicable one of these fountains, an engraving of which is appended, shall be placed in each ward of the municipality, in that part which constitutes the greatest thoroughfare. It is likely that they will be erected at or near the following places. Alfred Park, Flagstaff Hill near the Observatory, junction of William and Macleay streets, the entrance to Moore Park, the Haymarket, near the intersection of Park and Elizabeth streets, near the corner of Market and Sussex streets, and on the Circular Quay near the Custom House. The erection of these handsome fountains will be of general utility, and they will have a very pleasing effect. Their entire cost is £269 3s. 8d. (Australian Town and Country Journal Saturday 9 July 1870)