Tag Archives: NSW

Clean Drinking Water in Sydney

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.”

sydney clean water
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 Madleay 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)

Golden Jubilee Fountain

Location: Keppel & George Streets, Machattie Park, Bathurst, NSW

To commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, a drinking fountain was erected in November 1888 by the Women and Girls of Bathurst. It was located on Russell Street between the Kings Parade and the courthouse. Flags were suspended across the street in celebration, and the ceremony was attended by a large audience which was entertained by a band. Mrs. McHattie presented the gift of a fountain to Mayor Webb. Following the advent of the motor vehicle, it became an obstacle and was relocated to Machattie Park.

The 18 ft. drinking fountain was a customization of number 27 manufactured by Walter Macfarlane & Co. at the Saracen Foundry, Glasgow. The design was well suited for Street Crossings, Squares, Market Places, etc., as it afforded drinking accommodation for a large number of horses and drivers, and effectively lit a wide space, with the least possible obstruction to other traffic.

It provided a drinking trough for horses with a small basin for dogs at ground level. The trough was a circular cast iron basin supported on legs in the form of horses’ hooves. The central stanchion supported the structure which was seated on a circular plinth. A central fluted column was capped with a central lamp and four additional lamps on arm extensions. A shield on the post offered inscription. Four projecting tendrils suspended cups allowing humans to drink from the spouting water whilst horses drank from the large basin.

The structure was part of a Heritage study in 1990 and 1997, and was reviewed again in 2006. It was listed on the State Heritage Register in 2007 as a decorative and rare item of Victorian street furniture of historical, cultural and aesthetic significance.


  • Plinth, Flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
  • Stanchion, an upright bar or post providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

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Beare Park Fountain

Location: Elizabeth Bay, New South Wales, Australia

Beare Park is located close to the corner of The Esplanade and Ithaca Road. The drinking fountain, number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue, was erected in 1870.

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, and 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.’; the circular seal of the City of Sydney which contains an inscription identifying Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of City of Sydney, 1857. The Coat of Arms consists of a shield with a ship and beehive surmounted by a mural crown impaled with a pick-axe and a star. The shield is flanked by an aboriginal native with a spear; and an English sailor. The Seal bears the motto, “I take, but I surrender.”

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 there was originally a font with a basin, a statue, and four drinking cups suspended on chains. Initially, the fountain contained an iron tap which regulated the flow of water. In the interest of hygiene, drinking cups were abolished and the font was replaced with a bubbler so named because it produced a flow of bubbling water. The bubblers were produced by John Danks & Co.

Although there is no photographic evidence to reveal the original casting, it was more than likely number 7, 5 foot 8 inches high. The basin which had a scalloped edge and decorative relief was supported by a single decorative pedestal with four pilasters and four descending salamanders. A central urn with four consoles offered drinking cups suspended by chains. The terminal was a crane.

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

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