Monday, 28 December 2015

Drinking Fountains

 Public drinking fountains first made an appearance in London on the 21 April 1859. While London was becoming more populated, the standard of quality domestic water supply was failing to keep pace.  So much so that beer was  an alternative to water. Renowned philanthropist Sam Gurney MP gifted the public drinking fountain which is attached to the railings outside St Sepulchre-without-Newgate Church on Holborn  Hill. With Edward Hill he set up the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, later renamed as the Drinking Fountains Association. So popular was the fountain that it was believed nearly 7000 people a day would use it.

Closer to home is this public fountain erected on Hoylake Parade. It was designed by McFarlane and Co Glasgow to

commemorate the jubilee year of Queen Victoria and was erected in 1901. The dedication reads "For the children of Hoylake and Meols".

A simple fountain built on the top of Bidston Hill on Wirral may well be one of the highest fountains found in the UK.  The pumping station is located at the foot of the hill though I would imagine a significant amount of engineering was still required to pump water. Interestingly the manufacturers,  Glenfield Kennedy Kilmarnock, has as their founder Thomas Kennedy who invented the world's first water meter. While there appears to be no date on the fountain, it is assumed is was installed not long after 1899.

157 years later and our need for public drinking water is gaining renewed interest.  The sales of bottled water have never been higher, and the environmental pollution  regarding waste of plastic bottles and transportation is a concern. Many charities try to address the requirement for safe drinking water in poorer countries.  Few have succeeded in implementing public outdoor fountains in the UK.

The Architects Journal developed a competition called Kiosk back in 2014 where 6 renowned architects practices were tasked to design an outdoor fountain which could be built in London. Kiosk is theTurkish term for a meeting space which includes water, and the competition was in conjunction withTurkish Ceramics as part of the Bologna Water Festival. While some of the entries were incredibly elaborate,  the idea of recycling water bottles was captured perfectly in their headline Kicking the Bottle. Their vision for fresh free outdoor drinking water  has been listed as one of the 13 most key projects visualised for London.

Fresh outdoor accessible drinking water available to all,  including pets, sounds like a plan many people might enjoy. Imagine refilling a bottle instead of throwing one away.
And help is available.

Find a Fountain will help you locate a fountain, and their site has an indication as to which are working, and ask you to submit or correct information on their website.
The Drinking Fountains Association,the original charity set up in1859, will assist with grant applications to restore or develop free drinking water schemes in this country and abroad.  Public drinking fountains come under the council public realm. While London has tried to lead a national initiative , it is failing to implement any schemes yet.

We love the designs AJKiosk  generated. Who knows what trickle effect it will have in future projects around the country.

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