Tag Archives: Scotland

Diamond Jubilee Fountain

Location: Stranraer, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

The cast iron drinking fountain erected in 1897 for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee originally stood outside the Old Town Hall in George Street. It was moved several times within George Street when it became an obstacle to traffic, and was demolished when a car reversed into it.

It was reconstructed and restored by a local craftsman, and erected on a pedestrian area beside St. John’s Castle on Charlotte Street opposite Logan’s Close. At one time seated on a two tiered square plinth it now sits on a three tiered circular plinth. The structure was listed a Category C historic building on 30 March 1998.

Drinking fountain number 8 from Walter Macfarlane & Co.’s catalogue is 9 feet 6 inches high and 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 contained within each lunette host the bust of Queen Victoria, in profile, on the north elevation; the burgh arms (a ship with three sails, and the motto Tutissima Statio meaning safest harbour) on the south elevation; and the east and west elevations contain a dedication Erected / By The / Town Council / In Commemoration Of / Queen Victoria’s / Record Reign / 1897.

On each side provision was made for receiving an inscription using raised metal letters; on the east and west sides is 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 with a crown and lantern finial.

Under the canopy stands the font (design number 7), 5 foot 8 inches high. The basin which has a scalloped edge and decorative relief is 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 offer drinking cups suspended by chains. The terminal is 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
  • 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
  • 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



Alexander Munro Drinking Fountain

Location: Singleton, New South Wales, Australia

Alexander Munro was born in Ardesier, Scotland. He was transported as a convict to Australia at the age of 17 for the crime of stealing money, two pieces of cheese and some raisins from a grocery store. After his release in New South Wales, he created many businesses including the Caledonia Hotel. He became Singleton’s first Mayor and served for 5 consecutive years.

Known for his generosity, he commissioned a drinking fountain in 1887 to supply water to the poor dogs that followed their masters from the country and had nowhere to quench their thirst. Permission to erect the fountain in the garden in front of the Singleton Gaol was received from the Colonial Secretary’s office in Sydney with condition that the fence was re-erected at the Borough Council’s expense.

The erection of the fountain was delayed for several years as a dispute erupted regarding the ongoing cost of water and gas supply. Alexander Munro solved the dispute by offering to cover the cost of pipes to connect water, but the project was further delayed while Council decided which location was most suitable.

Three years after the fountain arrived in Singleton it still had not been erected and was lying in a back yard with weeds growing around it. Alexander died on 2 February 1889 without ever seeing the fountain installed.

Mr. Walter Lamb provided the town with a corner of land, free of cost, to enable the fountain to be erected. It was originally located in George Street, at the intersection of Campbell and Cambridge streets, almost opposite the Caledonia hotel which was built and owned by Alexander Munro. It was painted, gilded and varnished in December, and finally dedicated on Thursday 31 August 1890. Mrs. R H. Levien unveiled a large Australian flag which was folded around the column, and using a ceremonial sterling silver cup she filled it from the streaming water.

The fountain was a great boon to the town and made it unnecessary for cattle and horses to go to the river to drink. Vandalism occurred in 1894 when one of the drinking cups was detached and thrown into the trough. By the end of 1909 the dog trough contained no water and was filled with rubbish. Thirsty dogs leapt into the horse trough and lay there contaminating the drinking water.

With the advent of the motor vehicle, the fountain became an obstacle and a proposal to erect a fence around the fountain was rejected. Notices were printed cautioning drivers from damaging the fountain whilst driving.

Due to neglect of the structure, a fracture which had formed in the base of the column in November 1911 caused the column to lean. The drinking bowl was removed in 1935 and sold to Mr. P. Nelson who proceeded to use it as a goldfish bowl in the garden of his ornate home. The remaining structure was dismantled in June 1947. It was later rescued from the Council landfill and relocated to the garden of the Singleton Historical Society Museum in Burdekin Park.

An interesting note from 26 February 1924: a swarm of grasshoppers infested the city and the water in the basin of the fountain was covered in drowned insects.

The 18 ft. drinking fountain was 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 is now seated on a circular brick plinth. A central fluted column was capped with a hexagonal lamp roofed in with scales of opal glass (design number 223). The lantern which cast the light downwards was surmounted with a crown terminal. A shield on the post offered inscription: From Alexander Munro To The People Of Singleton 1887. Four projecting tendrils suspended cups allowing humans to drink from the spouting water whilst horses drank from the large basin.

In closing, a poem written about the Alexander Munro Fountain in Singleton.
The Fountain
For sixty years it stood in the street,
That landmark we knew as the fountain,
“Twas there that the drivers and horses would meet
When they hauled the big logs from the mountain.

The horses refreshed by the water they drank,
The great teams from all over the Valley,
But the drivers, we think avoided the tank
And had a few on the quiet at the “Cally.”

Progress demands and times marches on,
We must widen our roads for the traffic,
But we think of the past, now the landmark has gone
And the corners won’t look quite so graphic.

With our motors and buses and roads up to date,
We think of teamsters and logs from the mountain,
And reflect on the driver whose team was too late
Not home and hosed, for the “Cally” was closed, so he drank with his horse at the fountain.
~ by T.F. Melody~


  • 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

Witches’ Well

Location: Edinburgh, Scotland.

Situated on the eastern corner of Edinburgh Castle Esplanade where it meets the Royal Mile, an inconspicuous drinking fountain is mounted on the wall. The location was once the reservoir that held the old town’s water supply. This fountain is known as the Witches’ Well.

In 1894, Sir Patrick Geddes, a philanthropist known for his innovative thinking in urban planning and sociology, commissioned his friend, John Duncan, to design a drinking fountain to be located on the west side of Castlehill Reservoir next to Ramsay Garden. Duncan was a famed artist who was influenced by Celtic myth and legend which is evident in the sculpture.

Mounted on a wall it consists of a rectangular protruding trough with a square back-plate. The relief contains the image of a Foxglove plant from the centre of which is a coiled snake intertwined around the head of Aesculapius, The God of Medicine, and his daughter Hygeia, the Goddess of Health.

The rod of Asclepius, a snake-entwined staff, remains a symbol of medicine today. Hygeia as the personification of health, cleanliness, and sanitation represents hygiene. The Foxglove plant used medicinally can also be poisonous depending on dosage; and the image of the serpent imbued with wisdom is also acknowledged as evil. The symbolism of all represents good and evil.

There is some dispute as to whether the well is cast iron or bronze. A hole beneath the snake’s head spouted water. The upper left corner contains Roman Numerals equivalent to 1479, and 1722 is depicted in the bottom right (the period of the most prevalent persecution of witches in Scotland.) The bottom left displays the year of the sculpture and the sculptor’s initials: 18 (JD) 94. Two bolts on the upper corners differ in design and are Wiccan symbols of air and water.

The trough is sculpted on three sides. The font displays flora with roots beneath the earth and branches above. The left panel depicts the evil eye with frowning eyes and nose; the words ‘the evil eye’ are written below. The right side depicts a pair of hands holding a bowl with the words ‘hands of’ written above the bowl and ‘healing’ written below.

The plaque above the well was erected in 1912 and contains the inscription: This Fountain Designed By John Duncan RSA / Is Near The Site On Which Many Witches Were / Burned At The Stake. The Wicked Head And Serene / Head Signify That Some Used Their Exceptional / Knowledge For Evil Purposes While Others Were / Misunderstood And Wished Their Kind Nothing / But Good. The Serpent Has The Dual Significance / Of Evil And Of Wisdom. The Foxglove Spray Further / Emphasises The Dual Purpose Of Many Common Objects.

A local woman has undertaken the task of caring for the well and places flowers on a regular basis. A card can be seen in one of the photos which is a message recently written to those who died.

Persecution of Witches

Scotland’s King James VI believed that witchcraft was a form of Satanism and that anyone who possessed those abilities was tainted by the devil. As a result, in the 17th and 18th centuries, over 4000 alleged witches (mostly female) were put to death.

Witch trials were nothing more than a ritual with little evidence other than having a mole on the body, having red hair, or a malevolent neighbour who made the accusation of witchcraft. A hearing took place at the local church to gather evidence which was then forwarded to the High Court.

Torture, used to extract the truth and a confession, varied from sleep deprivation to hacking off breasts. If a witch refused to confess, it was seen as evidence that the Devil had her under his control. To garner absolute proof the accused was thrown into the Nor Loch (now Princes Street Gardens) with her left hand or thumb tied to her right foot, and her right hand or thumb tied to the left foot, leaving little hope of floating or treading water. If the accused sank (proof of innocence) a rope tied around her middle prevented drowning.

If the accused floated, she was classed as a witch, strangled and hung at the stake (the common belief that witches were burned alive is generally a myth.) The witch was then burned at a public spectacle at Castlehill, just below the castle.

On 25 June 1591, one of the most severe punishments was directed on Dame Euphane MacCalzean, who was accused of using a spell to destroy the ship of King James VI as it entered North Berwick. She was condemned to be ‘bound to a stake and burned in ashes, quick to the death.’

Scotland was Europe’s biggest persecutor of witches. By the end of the 17th century, witches were routinely hanged instead of being burned. The last hanging took place in 1728.

Aitken Memorial Fountain

Let’s start this blog off with a successful restoration story.

Dr. John Aitken was born and died in Govan, Glasgow, Scotland. He was dearly loved for his devotion to the poor, and much appreciated by his patients.

The fountain, while displaying many features of George Smith & Co.’s drinking fountains, is unique due to the six columns which support the canopy. It was manufactured by Cruickshanks & Co., otherwise known as the Denny Iron Works, the memorial was erected in 1884 at Water Row, Govan and dedicated to the good doctor. On 15 May 1987, the fountain was listed a Category B historic listed building.

During the 120 years since its erection, the fountain fell into disrepair. The Townscape Heritage Initiative undertook the task of restoring the monument in 2011, and restoration was undertaken by the Ballantine Boness Creative Ironworks.

The structure was originally seated on an octagonal plinth; following restoration the plinth is now a square. It has 6 columns with an arched (fish scale) dome topped with a corona and spike/orb finial. At the top of each arch is a commemorative panel representing the manufacturer, Cruickshanks & Co.; the Govan coat of arms; the Freemasons; the Manchester Unity of Oddfellows; the Ancient Order of Foresters; and a dedication which reads: Erected by the inhabitants of Govan in affectionate remembrance of John Aitken M.D. who died 11 March 1880, aged 41 years.

Connecting the interior columns to the fretwork detailed arch are alligators, one of many forms of Memento Mori. They were considered a symbol of evil and were hung from the ceilings of cabinets as a reminder of the mortality of humanity.

The drinking fountain consists of a wide mouthed basin, in the centre of which is a putto holding a paddle seated on an upturned urn. This ‘putto’ is the Sun Foundry’s pattern number 8. A receptacle for drinking was in the form of a small cup chained to the fountain.


  • Corona, Open framework in shape of a crown
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Fret, running or repeated ornament
  • Memento Mori, an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death Plinth
  • Putto (plural is Putti), a figure in a work of art depicted as a chubby male child, usually nude