Surrounded by a market that fills the street can be found what looks like an old memorial stone, but is much more interesting than that. Often surrounded by piles of rubbish from the market, this is a reminder less of Regal heritage than of recent immigrants to the country.

The area today is largely known for its Asian population, but was once home to a large Jewish community, and it was they who commissioned the water fountain in 1912, a couple of years after the death of King Edward VII. When you think about it, it does seem odd to name a drinking fountain after a dead man, but it was quite a popular idea at the time.

The water fountain cost £800, is made from Hopton Wood Stone, and was made by Henry Poole, who also made a number of public fountains around the UK.

It’s designed in a classic pillar style, with a bronze angel on the top, and has the Angels of Peace, of Liberty and of Justice, and of cherubs on the sides. Each of the cherubs holds an object of significance to the Jewish community at the time of the memorial’s unveiling.

One cherub holds a ship; many members of the local Jewish community were recent immigrants. A cherub holding a needle and thread signifies the clothing industry which employed the majority of the East End Jewish community until the 1970s. A book is held by another cherub signifying the importance of education to the community both from the local secular Jewish schools and the schools of Talmudic study. A car held by a cherub shows the increasing pace of modernity and the shift away from the horse and cart in modern London.

Facing the road is the King, and on the reverse, a plaque from the unveiling.

Remarkably, there is film footage of the unveiling in a silent Pathe News clip from 1912.

Do look for the old style underground sign on the outside of Whitechapel station in the background.


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One comment
  1. George says:

    Sorry to ask the bleeding obvious, but: does it still work?

    I remember from my long-ago childhood when they turned all of them off in Kensington, and later when the one near Aristotle Lane in Oxford died the death.

    It’s now fashionable to offer fixtures to discourage single-use plastic Evian bottles, so I live in hope.

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