About this image
Showing the former drinking fountain installed in 1889. This was made by Andrew Handyside's foundry in Derby at a cost of £46. The base in Aberdeen Granite cost £35. It originally had three lamps surmounting the central post, a basin, with chained beaker for people to drink from, and a three troughs for horses and cattle. The animal drinking troughs are at the lower section of the fountain, and for many years, when the fountain fell into disuse, the water stagnated and became receptacles for litter and were finally filled-in. Drinking water for humans was obtained from the upper basins by climbing the steps. Many drinking fountains like this were erected all across the country during the Victorian period. Towns and cities in the mid nineteenth century were very unhealthy places. Water was in short supply and drinking water so heavily polluted that most of the working population drank beer instead. Disease and alcoholism were rife: cholera outbreaks in 1847 and 1858 killed over 58,000 people in London alone. In 1859 the MP Samuel Gurney, a nephew of the social reformer Elizabeth Fry, was inspired by public drinking fountains newly installed by civic authorities in northern cities like Liverpool and Hull, to found the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association. The Association's first fountain was opened on 1859 on the boundary railings of St Sepulchre's in Snow Hill, London, paid for entirely by Gurney himself. Within a short space of time it was being used by 7,000 people a day and by 1865 over 85 fountains had been erected. By 1867 provision of drinking troughs for animals was being included and the Society changed its name to the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association. The cost of the clean water supply was met in some cases by the Association, in others by the local parish. Many drinking fountain and animal trough were donated by local philanthropists and Borough Councils. Drinking fountains were typically built in granite or other stone and carved by professional stonemasons. Others were made from cast iron. The result is that many have survived to the present day, although sadly neglected and without water supply or drinking cups. Slowly and increasingly the will and the means are becoming available for restoration, though in some cases it has been impossible to reconnect the water. The Ilkeston drinking fountain was restored in 1980.