Tag Archives: Greenock

Greenock Esplanade Drinking Fountain

Location: Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland

Note: I have researched hundreds of cast iron drinking fountains, and on occasion the research takes months, or is put on the back burner because there is no digital information available (most of my research is done online). This particular fountain has been pulled out of my ‘stumped’ folder – perhaps a reader can contribute.

The drinking fountain canopy is located in the garden of John Gault House on the Greenock Esplanade. The structure originally located at the western end of the Esplanade housed a drinking fountain.

Drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue was manufactured at the Saracen Foundry at Possilpark in Glasgow. The structure is 9 feet 6 inches high and consists of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles with griffin terminals unite with arches formed of decorated mouldings.

Rope moulded cartouches within each lunette host the image of a crane. Memorial shields were also offered including an open bible displaying a verse from St. John’s Gospel chapter 4 verse 14, ‘Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.’ On two of the sides provision was made for receiving an inscription using raised metal letters; whilst on the other two sides was the useful monition, Keep The Pavement Dry. Civic virtues such as temperance were often extolled in inscriptions on drinking fountains. The structure is surmounted by an open filigree dome, the finial being a crown with a pattée cross.

Under the canopy stood the font (design number 7) 5 foot 8 inches high. The terminal was a crane. The basin (2 feet 6 inches in diameter) which had a scalloped edge and decorative relief was supported by a single decorative pedestal with four pilasters and four descending salamanders, a symbol of courage and bravery. A central urn with four consoles offered drinking cups suspended by chains. The fountain was operated by pressing a button.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions, salamanders display bravery and courage that cannot be extinguished by fire, and cranes are recognized as a symbol of vigilance.


  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Pattée cross, a cross with arms that narrow at the centre and flare out at the perimeter
  • 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

Overtoun Drinking Well

Location: Overtoun, Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland

Within the moorland of Inverclyde is the Greenock Cut, a narrow aqueduct channelling water from the hills into the city. At the east end of the aqueduct at Overtoun, the cut passes under a bridge. On the west side is a cast iron drinking fountain and two plaques which commemorate the centenary of the cut created in 1827.

The fountain was cast by Glenfield and Kennedy of Kilmarnock. It consists of a single pedestal with a fluted demi-lune basin. The scroll backplate was embellished with floral bas-relief and a lion mascaron. Above the lion mask a circle held the inscription of the foundry, Glenfield Kennedy Limited Kilmarnock. A medallion with rope moulding contained a central push button which released water from the lion mask. A drinking cup was originally suspended by a chain.


  • Bas-relief, sculpted material that has been raised from the background to create a slight projection from the surface
  • Demi-lune, half moon or crescent shape
  • Mask/Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • Medallion, a circular device bearing a portrait or relief moulding
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue


Lyle Drinking Fountain

Location: Greenock, Renfrewshire, Scotland

In the early part of the 19th century, the Lyle family was occupied in the commerce of coopering (barrel making) and shipping; they owned fishing smacks (English sailing vessels used to bring fish to market.) Abram Lyle inherited the business from his father, and with the assistance of several partners he bought a sugar refinery in Greenock in 1865. He also created a shipping line named the Cape Line. When he was denied anchorage in Greenock Harbour to transport sugar from the West Indies, he relocated his business to England in 1882. Henry Tate operated a sugar refinery in England, and many years later in 1921 Abram Lyle’s grandson merged with Henry Tate & Sons to become Tate & Lyle, world famous for sugar and syrup.

In addition to being a businessman, Abram was the Town Provost of Greenock from 1876-1879. Abram donated a drinking fountain to the town which was erected in Cathcart Square in 1880 .

The structure is seated on a three level octagonal plinth. Six Corinthian columns with attic base support a highly decorated open filigree dome. The capital of each column, studded with alternating circles and diamond shapes, extends beyond the capital and ends with a corona finial. At the top of the dome a spire emerges from plant foliage with open filigree crowns and a small orb at the apex.

Crests of 18 prominent families of Greenock, some of which are Ardgowan, Cartsburn, Fairlie, Stewart, Morton, Steele, Watt, and Wood, are visible along the frieze and the central point of each arch.

The font standing on a circular plinth displays an inscription, This Fountain Given To The Inhabitants of Greenock By Abram Lyle Provost 1879. A central pedestal supports a two tiered basin structure, the larger basin being on the bottom, and a smaller basin in which stands a terminal of two fish. Relevance of the fish is probably related to the Lyle family being involved in the commerce of fishing.

There is no evidence of the manufacturer of the drinking fountain. However, there are several castings similar to the Lion Foundry, (and the cast iron coronas on the red sandstone buildings of Sandringham Terrace are also a Lion Foundry design), leads me to believe that the fountain designed by Mr. F.A. Scudamore of Coventry was probably cast by the Lion Foundry of Kirkintilloch.

Image notes

  • In the postcard image, the column terminals appear to contain gas lamp globes.
  • In the 1966 image the original fountain has been replaced by a bubbler (a tap that releases a jet of water), and  a single pedestal with a small white basin. Suspended from the column terminals there would appear to be canisters for lights.
  • In the 1977 image the original font design has been resurrected. The family crests are not in position.


  • Attic base, a column base with two rings
  • Bubbler, a fountain with a tap
  • Capital, the top of a column that supports the load bearing down on it
  • Corinthian Column, a fluted shaft with flowers and leaves at the capital.
  • Corona, a crown
  • Filigree, fine ornamental work
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Frieze, the horizontal part of a classical entablature just below the cornice, often decorated with carvings
  • Pedestal, an architectural support for a column or statue
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal