London has a large number of public drinking fountains dotted throughout the city. These public facilities allow both visitors and locals to grab a refreshing drink of water without having to pay a fee, and form an important part of the city’s infrastructure.
Current Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan has installed a series of over 100 drinking fountains throughout London. These fountains provide Londoners with a solution to plastic bottles by making water more accessible and have been rolled out all over the city. Not only can people get a drink there and then, but they can also bring their own bottle and refill it – helping to alleviate wastage and promote a healthier and more eco-friendly London.
However, the drinking fountains which have been installed in recent years often do not have the same style and history as those which were placed around London in prior centuries. In this blog, we’ll take a quick look at the drinking fountains you’ll find in the city. – focusing on the fountains with a fascinating story to tell.
Additions to our list include everything from statuesque marvels to a fountain that has a very pet-friendly purpose!
Holy Trinity Church
The Holy Trinity Church includes one of the most striking examples of a London drinking fountain there is. This fountain is located in one of the railings of the Holy Trinity Church, which is itself located opposite a pub.
First installed during the Victorian era, the fountain is made from granite, and has a lower-tiered outlet specifically for dogs to drink from. Pet-friendly, the fountains in this style were first installed free of charge, though this included the proviso that local councils took care of their ongoing maintenance.
They have subsequently stopped doing so, making the fountain perhaps a little more ‘rustic’ in appearance than many might expect. Nonetheless, it is well worth visiting while staying at the Park Grand Heathrow.
The Temperance Fountain was first placed at the Royal Exchange in 1861. After the First World War, it was moved to accommodate a memorial for troops who came from London and fought in the conflict. This new memorial debuted in 1920. The Temperance Fountain was presented by Samuel Gurney, a member of Parliament and noted philanthropist who was also responsible for the first drinking fountain ever placed in London.
The fountain was created by Willis Bros and the Coalbrookdale Iron Company. When it was first unveiled, it featured three dolphins at its base, and the holes which once accommodated them are still visible to this day.
An inscription includes a dedication to Gurney and the date. You can find the fountain in Finsbury Square, within easy reach of the Park Grand.
Phoenix Well Pump
Operated by hand, this well pump situated on the side of the Royal Exchange is located on the site of a former prison, described as a ‘House of Correction’. The prison was built by the then Mayor of London, Henry Wallis, in 1282. The pump is on the spot where a well connected to the prison was located, and after being discovered it was enlarged and a pump added in 1799.
Situated in Finsbury Square, this is another of the city’s most impressive drinking fountains. The fountain is more ornate than some of the additions to our list, with its lavish design features and bold stone construction.
It was installed by Thomas and Walter Smith. The sons of a sweet manufacturer (and the inventor of Christmas Crackers, Tom Smith), it was created as a way of commemorating their mother Martha. As such, the fountain is seen by thousands of individuals daily, many of whom probably aren’t aware of its grand significance.
Tom Smith had opened his first sweet shop in 1840. He became enthralled by the French-style ‘bon bon’ sweets which he discovered on a trip to Paris, and set about trying to create something similar himself. He was particularly intrigued by the sweets’ wrapping, and took inspiration when designing the first ever Christmas cracker.
At its height, the company was home to a vast workforce of more than 2000 people, and produced approximately 112,000 boxes of crackers each year. While the company continues to trade today, it is now a subsidiary of the larger Napier Industries, who are themselves the largest worldwide manufacturer of Christmas crackers.
This striking fountain is a final reminder of the close links which Finsbury has with this historic manufacturer and entrepreneur, and is sure to impress guests on a detour before enjoying a Park Grand Kensington Indian Afternoon Tea nearby.
Sometimes known as Charity, this fountain was installed by the Drapers and Merchant Taylors City Livery Companies. Placed outside the Royal Exchange in 1879, it is the work of French master sculptor Jules Dalou (born 1838). The sculpture included a large stone canopy, though it suffered terrible bombing damage during the Second World War.
The figure depicted is a mother nursing her infants, cast in bronze. It is a delightfully sweet scene, which stands out strongly as one of the best drinking fountains in London. For art-loving guests staying at pay later hotels, this is likely to be one of the major highlights of their stay.
First London Drinking Fountain
Last but by no means least, London’s first ever drinking fountain is a sight which will be of particular interest to history buffs. The fountain was installed in 1859, as part of an initiative by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association.
The association, founded by Samuel Gurney MP, sought to provide free water to London’s citizens. The initiative was intended to help discourage the use of alcohol as the only source of uninfected liquid – a particularly prevalent amongst the working classes of the era.
Their first drinking fountain was established opposite a local pub, with two cups attached to a chain. It can be found outside St Sepulchre’s Church.