Tag Archives: West Midlands

Polly on the Fountain

Location: Oldbury, West Midlands, England

This lost cast iron drinking fountain was manufactured by the Coalbrookdale Company Foundry. David Taylor, the founder of the London Ironworks in Oldbury, bequeathed to the town in his will a sum of money to purchase a drinking fountain, (the proposal to erect a fountain had been initiated 35 years earlier.) It was erected at the corner of Birmingham Street and Unity Place on the same site from which Jack Judge, composer of ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’, would later sell fish from his handcart.

It was seated on a rectangular plinth with rounded edges, and consisted of a trough with a drinking fountain centerpiece. Centrally positioned floral lunettes were located in the decorative panels of each animal trough.

The drinking fountain was an encased dome surrounded by arches and short pedestals with floral decoration. Four Corinthian columns with attic base supported a canopy surmounted by a statue. Lunettes between each column contained lion masks. On two sides, water which flowed from the lion mouth into a fluted basin descended to a small trough below for the use of dogs. The central finial was a reeded vase with handles in the form of intertwined snakes. Photographic evidence shows a partly illegible inscription between the lion mask and basin, Presented to the town by David Taylor…1882

The terminal statue of a female figure stood on a circular base set upon a square plinth. She was portrayed in a contrapposto stance and was dressed in long flowing robes. Her left arm was relaxed at her side and her right arm held a torch above her head. Originally a glass sphere, it contained a gas mantle that was illuminated at night. The statue was identified as Europa by the manufacturer, but it was known locally as Polly on the fountain. The reason for this nickname is unknown.

The description of the fountain appeared in the Oldbury Weekly News of 5th August 1882 although the description was not accurate.  “It is composed entirely of iron, the contract having been executed by the Coalbrookdale Iron Company.  There are four troughs at the base for the use of sheep, dogs and cattle, above which is the usual provision for the public.  In the centre of the structure is an ornamental urn which seems to be in connection with the lion heads from which the water flows.  Over this is a canopy or pedestal on which stands a full-sized figure representing a female, holding up a crown with outstretched hands.”

On Christmas Eve 1949 drunken celebrants climbed onto the statue knocking it to the ground and breaking the right arm. With no attempt made to repair it, the remains of the fountain were dismantled to be sold for scrap.Harry Nightingale, great grandson of David Taylor and owner of a pawn shop in the town, purchased the damaged statue and erected it in his garden at Barnford Crescent. This was the first of many homes for Polly as family members relocated within the town of Oldbury; Kingswinford; Bath, Somerset; and Trowbridge, Wiltshire. After Edna Nightingale became a widow, she offered to return the statue to the town with the proviso that it was repaired. The statue was therefore delivered to Oldbury but after inspection was considered too costly, and it was returned to Wiltshire. The statue remains in the care of the Nightingale family.


  • Attic base, a column base with two rings
  • Canopy, an ornamental roof-like projection
  • Contrapposto, a stance where one leg bears the weight and the other leg is relaxed
  • Finial, a sculptured ornament fixed to the top of a peak, arch, gable or similar structure
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Mask/Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • Plinth, flat base usually projecting, upon which a pedestal, wall or column rests.
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal

In Gratitude
Many thanks to Dr. Terry Daniels, Chair of the Oldbury Local History Group


Image Sources




Elizabeth Farley Memorial Fountain

Location: West Bromwich, West Midlands, England

Reuben Farley, benefactor and Mayor of West Bromwich, erected this fountain in memory of his dear mother, Elizabeth Farley.

In researching this fountain, I am left wondering just how many more times it will be relocated. Originally erected in 1885 in Dartmouth Square at the junction of Old Paradise Street and High Street in West Bromwich, England, it remained in this location until 1911 when it was relocated near the Herbert Street entrance to Dartmouth Park.

In 1969 it was moved to the Dagger Lane entrance to accommodate the construction of the Expressway which cut through the park. The font had been removed and a square pillar with two protruding basins installed. The current wide mouthed basin on an urn shaped pedestal bears no resemblance to the pillar style font, or the original drinking fountain.

The elaborately decorated drinking fountain was listed a grade II historic building in 1987.During the bidding phase of the new town centre, one of the required conditions was an agreement to re-site the fountain close its original location. The move to Dartmouth Square in the High Street was accomplished in 1988. It is currently located at the entrance to the Farley Centre.

In 2013 plans were underway to move the fountain yet again to a knoll next to Reform Street Bridge which borders the park. However, recent rumours now suggest that the fountain will not be moved…

The canopied drinking fountain is design number 20, an elaborate 18 feet by 4 feet fountain, sold by Walter Macfarlane & Co, and manufactured at the Saracen Foundry, Possilpark, Glasgow, Scotland. Seated on a two tier octagonal plinth, the open filigree canopy is supported by eight columns with griffin terminals which are positioned over capitals with foliage frieze above square bases. Several column bases are inscribed: “W Macfarlane & Co Glasgow”.

The highly decorated cusped arches were trimmed with rope mouldings. Cartouches contained within each lunette host alternate images of cranes and swans and a dedication shield with the inscription, In/ Loving Memory Of/ Elizabeth Farley/ This Fountain Was Erected/ By Her Son/ Alderman Farley. J. P.  On each side arch faceplates provided a flat surface for an inscription using raised metal letters; often the useful monition, 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, ribbed dome. The internal capitals contain flowers and the internal lunettes are lion mascarons. The structure is surmounted with an eagle finial.

Under the canopy stands the font (design number 18.) A circular shaft, ornamented with water lilies, rests on a wide base with canted corners. Four lion jambs support four highly decorated quatrefoil basins. Rising from the centre is a pyramid shaped stanchion decorated with swan and bird decoration. A kylix-shaped lamp terminal with four consoles offer drinking cups suspended by chains.

Symbolism was popular in Victorian times. Griffins are symbolic of guardians of priceless possessions; lions are symbolic of guardianship; doves are synonymous with peace, and eagles represent immortality.

By 1969 the font had been removed and a square pillar with two protruding basins installed. The current wide mouthed basin on an urn shaped pedestal bears no resemblance to the pillar style font, or the original drinking fountain.


  • Canted corner, an angled surface which cuts of a corner
  • 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
  • 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
  • Jamb, a projecting vertical post containing sculpture
  • Kylix, a Grecian style drinking cup
  • Lunette, the half-moon shaped space framed by an arch, often containing a window or painting
  • Mascaron, a decorative element in the form of a sculpted face or head of a human being or an animal
  • 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
  • Stanchion, upright bar or post providing support
  • Terminal, statue or ornament that stands on a pedestal


Angel Drinking Fountains

There are two angel fountains that I am aware of in England.

Manufactured by the English iron foundry, Coalbrookdale Company, pattern number 101 is a wall mounted drinking fountain.

A sculptured wreath with a recessed scalloped basin is surmounted by the upper torso of a winged angel holding an open book inscribed with a verse from the New Testament: John chapter IV, verses 13 & 14: Whosever drinketh of this water shall thirst again but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give shall never thirst. The recessed interior of the fountain is decorated with a shell surrounded by reeds.


The Angel Fountain erected in 1850 was originally located at Christ Church at the junction of Colmore Row and New Street in Birmingham. When the church was demolished in 1899, the fountain was moved to St. Philips Cathedral in Colmore Row. The fountain is mounted in a rectangular column with acroteria within the south western perimeter of the Cathedral grounds. Originally drinking cups were suspended on chains from two circular mounts on each side of the wreath.

A plaque beneath the fountain describes a brief history of the fountain and its restoration. This drinking fountain originally stood outside Christ Church at the junction of Colmore Row and New Street and after the demolition of the church in 1899 it was re-sited in this location. In 1988 the fountain was restored by the Planning Committee of the City Council, the Cathedral Close Community and Messrs. Wragge and Company, Solicitors.

A small step stone is located directly in front of the fountain as an aid to smaller persons. Two semi circular basins inserted on either side of the fountain at ground level are for the use of dogs.

The fountain was listed an English Heritage grade II architectural or historic interest building in 1982.









The Angel drinking fountain set into the east wall of St Nicholas church in Bristol was located at one of the city’s busiest road junctions: High Street & Bristol Bridge. It was erected in 19th November 1859 by the Iron Merchants of Bristol. This lost fountain is swathed in mystery as there is much confusion and dispute as to what happened to it.

It has been reported that during the early months of World War II it was removed for safety.

Another source claims that it was destroyed during the war. St. Nicholas Church was utilized as an air raid shelter and was subjected to many enemy bombs which destroyed the church and the surrounding buildings on the High Street. The ensuing fire destroyed furnishings and documents, and if the angel had not been taken off site it is possible that it was destroyed.

Yet another scenario suggests that the angel was damaged during WWII and removed for repair. Further damage was caused by water penetrating the wall. It was neglected in a city council yard until the Temple Local History Group and the Bristol Civic Society took action, and it was transferred to the Bristol Industrial Museum. Its location here has been refuted by a former employee.