A grand Victorian drinking fountain sits next to St Paul’s Cathedral, but it wasn’t there originally and only ended up there due to WW2.
This ornate fountain was originally erected outside the church of St Lawrence Jewry, which sits next to Guildhall in the City of London, in May 1866. What’s worth noting is that at the time, the huge open space outside Guildhall didn’t exist, and the area was filled with buildings, so the drinking fountain sat in a small courtyard space outside the church.
Although the gothic revival design is to our eyes fairly commonplace for Victorian architecture, it is thought to have been one of the first in this style, and the inspiration for many more built later by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association that followed later.
This change in artistic direction could in part be due to the fact that the £500 cost for the fountain came from the parish, not the Association, and it was the parish that decided on the design.
The architect was John Robinson and the sculptor was Joeseph Durham, while the main body of the fountain was constructed by Mr W Thomas, the superintendent of the Royal Mausoleum in Windsor.
The Association may have adopted the design as they also took over the day to day running of the fountain once it was formally opened.
Although there had already been an intention to clear some of the buildings from outside Guildhall and create an open space, not much was done until WW2 did most of the work for them. While the church was badly damaged, the fountain wasn’t (you can just see it under the tree in this painting), but as post-war rebuilding progressed, the fountain was eventually dismantled in 1970 and put into storage.
Incidentally, it was during rebuilding work that the famous Roman Amphitheatre underneath the courtyard was discovered.
The fountain though sat in crates in a warehouse until the turn of the century, when a new spot was found for it, outside St Paul’s Cathedral next to the gardens that were laid out during the construction of the Millenium (aka, Wobbly) Footbridge.
During the restoration, a substantial portion of the original fountain stonework was re-used and supplemented with new matching carved stone where the original stone had been lost or damaged beyond repair.
The fountain has also been built on a new plinth with two steps to match the historical setting of the original fountain by St Lawrence Jewry Church. Although no longer functioning, the water used to come from a pipe above the bronze basso-relief, which shows Moses striking a Rock, which dispensed water into a large bowl in front of him.
Above, carved in the stone are patron saints — being for the two saints of the original parishes of St Lawrence and St Mary Magdalene which funded the fountain originally. Two blank sides look like they are missing statues, but originally they listed the names of the benefactors of the fountain.
The fountain was unveiled a decade ago, in August 2010.
So while it looks like it’s a remnant of heritage that’s been here for over a century, in fact, it’s been here for just over a decade.