Category Archives: Northern Ireland

Big Lamp Fountain

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.


Circa 1930s – presence of motor vehicles. Source: Facebook/OldCarrickFergus

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.

Killowen Drinking Fountain

Location: Coleraine, Londonderry, Northern Ireland

In the mid part of the 19th century, homes in the Waterside area of Coleraine had no water supply. The drilling of a small diameter well in 1870 delivered spring water from 80 feet below the surface of Captain Street Lower. The fountain was most likely erected at the edge of the pavement around this time period. It was believed that the water held special powers and was delivered to the sick and dying.

geograph_albert bridge

Creative Commons License, Albert Bridge. Source:

On ordnance survey maps of Coleraine, the fountain is indicated by the letter ‘P’ (for pump) in 1882; by WT (water trough) in 1904, 1922 and 1949; and as a pump in 1973 and subsequent years.

irish news

The Historic Buildings Unit of the DOE recorded the drinking fountain as a Category B+ listing on 22 March 2016, and in the spring of 2017 it was announced that the drinking fountain, which is still in operation and used daily by locals, will be restored.

geograph_albert bridge2

Creative Commons License, Albert Bridge. Source:

Design L34 by Glenfield Company Limited offers a square pedestal with geometric pattern on the base. All four sides have a panel edged with cable fret; the panel on the east side has a lion mascaron with a large circular flower or sun motif and a central button that activates the release of water. The manufacturer’s name is engraved below the mascaron; Glenfield Co. / Limited / Kilmarnock. A studded cornice beneath the capital supports a square base with nail head moulding surmounted with an urn finial (the original design offered a lamp post).


  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Cornice, a molding or ornamentation that projects from the top of a building
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Fret, running or repeated ornament
  • Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • Nail head molding, a series of low four-sided pyramids
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue


City Cemetery Drinking Fountain

Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland

The drinking fountain located midway between the vaults and the boundary wall was erected during the late 19th century (1880-1890).

Seated on a two tiered hexagonal granite plinth, the fountain is design number 13 by George Smith & Co. manufactured by the Sun Foundry. The base is in the form of a compass cross base with canted corners. It has a central pedestal and four columns decorated with diamond frieze and nail head molding which supported the font. The large basin has nail head relief on the rim and is partitioned by four foliate brackets from which cups are suspended on chains. Shell motif spouts on each side release water flow. The structure is surmounted with a chained orb terminal.


  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • Compass cross, a cross of equal vertical and horizontal lengths, concentric with and overlaying a circle.
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Foliate, decorated with leaves or leaf like motif
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical moulding just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.

Falls Park Drinking Fountain

Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland

In June 1866, a portion of the land purchased from the Sinclair family by Belfast Corporation was used to create Falls Park. It was established as a public park in 1869. The park was used as a congregational area during WWII air raids.

Unfortunately I have been unable to find any information relating to the history of the drinking fountain erected in the park. The attached photos were taken by John Bonar Holmes on July 25, 1946. Used with permission from the Facebook page, Yesterday’s Photos and Photographic Services.

The 6’ 2” drinking fountain, design number 18, was manufactured by Walter Macfarlane’s Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, Scotland. It had a wide base in the form of a St. Andrew’s cross with canted corners, on which was set a circular shaft ornamented with water lilies. Four lion jambs supported four highly decorated quatrefoil basins. An obelisk with swan and bird relief rose from the center of the basins. A kylix-shaped vase terminal with four consoles offered drinking cups suspended by chains.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions; lions are symbolic of guardianship; owls are symbolic of guardians of the afterlife, and eagles represent immortality.


  • Console, a decorative bracket support element
  • Jamb, a projecting vertical post containing sculpture
  • Kylix, a Grecian style drinking cup
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests
  • Quatrefoil, a type of decorative framework consisting of a symmetrical shape which forms the overall outline of four partially-overlapping circles of the same diameter
  • relief
  • Stanchion, upright bar or post providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal