Monday, 12 March 2012

A fountain of

Queuing for the monthly candlelit evening at Sir John Soane's Museum, I had plenty of time to admire a Victorian fountain just across the road. However, it presented an intriguing puzzle: 'the fear of the Lord is a fountain of' what? The final word has worn away.

Back at home, a quick search provided the answer: 'life'. Unsurprisingly, the inscription was a popular one for Victorian water fountains - London Remembers records the same motto at St Dunstan's in the West, Fleet Street.

This example seems to have been provided by an anonymous philanthropist concerned at the poor quality of water available locally. (Local wells were polluted by sewage.) The District Board of Works recorded in 1860 that 'A lady residing in the neighbourhood of London is anxious to be permitted to put up a Drinking Fountain at her own expense in this Parish and prefers to place it in Lincoln's Inn Fields'. The following year, this fine and rather elaborate fountain was put in place. 


Hels said...

I have no problem with the Book of Proverbs (fear of the Lord is a fountain of life)! But it is interesting that an individual patron could place a fountain in a public place with a biblical message on it.

I am assuming the wording was the patron's choice, not the Board of Work's choice.

SilverTiger said...

I think that drinking fountains at that period must have been seen as very valuable resources for the reason you give (polluted water supplies). People funding fountains would therefore be assured of approbation and, in return, could create a monument for themselves or for someone else (such as the fountain erected in Finsbury Square by two sons in memory of their mother).

Religion was such an integral part of Victorian life that the appearance of Biblical texts on fountains (and other public monuments) needn't necessarily be seen as anything more than a purely conventional gesture.

I do sometimes wish that these old fountains were better looked after. Many are in a poor and even disgusting state.