Location: Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, Scotland
The drinking fountain canopy standing on a two tiered concrete plinth at Summerlee Industrial Museum was originally part of the drinking fountain installed in Dunbeth Park, Coatbridge to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887. The ornately decorated canopy was known as the Jubilee Fountain.
The canopy was donated to Summerlee Heritage Trust by Monklands District Council Leisure and Recreation Department in 1989. It was restored by conservation engineers circa 1994-1996 and relocated to the Summerlee Museum. Many thanks to Jenny Noble, Social History Curator at CultureNL Ltd. who was very helpful in assisting with my research.
Design numbers 20 and 21 from Walter Macfarlane &Co.’s catalog were very similar, and with no pictorial evidence of the original structure including the finial and font, it is difficult to know for certain. However, John P. Bolton from the Scottish Ironwork Foundation is of the opinion that the design is #21 due to the fact that pattern number 20 was not available until the 1890s presumably for commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee of 1897.
Design number 21 (18 feet by 4 feet) was 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 highly decorated cusped arches are trimmed with rope mouldings which display lunettes with cartouches of a crane, a left facing profile of Queen Victoria and a dedication: Presented To The Burgh Of Coatbridge / By The / Building Trades / 22nd June / 1887. Directly above an arch faceplate provides a flat surface for inscription using raised metal letters; 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. The internal capitals are floral ornament. The openwork iron canopy was originally surmounted with a vase and spiked obelisk finial.
Under the canopy stood the font, casting number 7. The 5ft 8ins high font was a single decorative pedestal with four pilasters and descending salamander relief supporting a basin 2ft 6ins in diameter. The interior surface of the scalloped edge basin was engraved with decorative relief, and a sculptured vase was terminated by the figure of a crane. Four elaborate consoles 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.
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