Paul Gibson’s Hull and East Yorkshire History

A short history of Hull’s fountains


The first drinking fountain in London is thought to have been was erected in 1859 by Samuel Gurney, founder of the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association, at St. Sepulchre’s Church, Snow Hill. Surprisingly, drinking fountains were introduced in Hull slightly earlier than in London (see later). We already had some ornamental fountains here and there, usually in private gardens but some in public spaces such as the original Botanical Gardens off the south side of the Anlaby Road established in 1812, and the later Zoological Gardens on the north side of Spring Bank.

Philanthropic local dignitaries and businessmen, many of who were allied to the growing temperance movement, often provided fountains – in particular drinking fountains, as a means for the working man to quench his thirst without the need to pop in the ale-house. These were usually sited in prominent places often along main roads, and as Hull built its public parks around the town from the 1860s, they were often placed there for the good of the public. In the middle of the 19th Century drinking fountains would have been of much more use than today when we accept that we can obtain clean drinking water almost anywhere; most house, especially in the poorer districts still had no mains water, with most court housing sharing a communal tap in a yard. So the erection of a free drinking fountain would have been a fairly major event, and the facility would have been very well-used.

As mains water became more readily available some Victorian developers took advantage and several of Hull's late 19th Century streets such as Boulevard, Park Street and the Avenues were furnished with grand decorative fountains. There was also a fashion for using fountains as commemorative items or as memorials, which continued into the 20th Century – such as the Rowntree fountain in Pickering Park, the Reckitt’s War Memorial in their factory grounds, and the Billaney drinking fountain in the West Park. Seen here is the beautiful Temple drinking fountain that stood at the entrance to Queens Road - but more of that later.

Later developments in the town centre, such as in Queens Gardens and at what became known as Fletchers Corner (outside the Fletchers shop), also included water features, a trend that continued with several modern developments including The Maltings office complex in Sylvester Street, Princes Quay Shopping Centre and the Victoria Dock housing estate. The fountains at the west end of Queen's Gardens are shown here in the 1950s when traffic still used the road around the circumference of the decorative beds.

Victorian historian James Sheahan noted: - ‘Drinking fountains - these modern improvements were introduced into Hull in June 1858 [a year earlier than London] by town councillor Henry John Atkinson Esq., who presented two fountains to the town. One he inserted in the base of the Wilberforce Monument, and the other he erected on Spring-Bank, opposite the entrance to the Zoological Gardens, then in existence. For this gift the donor received the thanks of the Local Board of health on the 21st of June in the above year’. 

The following list probably mentions most of the known drinking fountains, memorial fountains and larger ornamental or other types of fountains past and present, in Kingston upon Hull. In this study I have continued research begun on this subject in tribute to my great friend Chris Ketchell, with whom I worked on the original list in 2000, as well as seeking out more images of the fountains to add to those I provided for the first (unfinished) draft. Chris is not with us any more sadly, so it has ben my pleasure to complete the survey on his behalf and present our expanded research for you here.

Zoological Gardens Mermaid Fountain

Hull’s Zoological Gardens were in existence from 1840 until c.1862 and included a so-called Mermaid fountain in the central walkway. A report from a meeting of the Hull & East Riding Zoological Society was detailed in the Hull Packet of 10 July 1840 and noted: - ‘connected with the central promenade will be formed a large fountain with a Nereid in the centre’ – a Nereid being a sea-nymph in Greek mythology. This fountain may have been the first example of a 'public' decorative fountain in Hull. The only known photograph of this 'mermaid' fountain, dated 1854, appeared in the book Hull As It Was (see bibliography), and comes from the Wilberforce House collection of Hull Museums. Historian Chris Ketchell and I believed this was the same fountain that was later re-erected in Pearson Park (see later) and comparing the photographs shown here - the first being the Zoological Gardens (right) it is hard to dispute.

Zoological Gardens Dolphin Fountain

The second fountain to be found in the Zoological Gardens featured dolphins rather than mermaids and an auction catalogue produced when the Zoological Gardens closed in 1862 lists both of these fountains and its possible that elements of both these fountains found their way, in part via Pearson Park, to Fletchers Corner (see later). On 24 April 1862 the Eastern Counties Herald reported on the auction of items from the closing down sales at the Zoological Gardens: - ‘On Thursday last the whole of the ornamental buildings, objects of art, and other attractive features of this popular place of resort, were brought under Charles Johnson’s hammer ... There was a large and respectable number of buyers ... Alderman Moss - fountain £20, Ruins from York Minster £18, an elegant cross £3; these to go to the Park’. The auction catalogue can be found in the Hull Local Studies Library ref. L791.9 in which this second fountain is also described: - ’89 - Sculptured stone Dolphin Fountain and Rock Work’, and ‘127 - A large and handsome Mermaid Fountain, the figure of metal casting with elaborately sculptured stone cup and brick basin with stone coping - diameter of basin 22 feet’.

Pearson Park Mermaid fountain

Historian Edmund Wrigglesworth noted in 1890: - ‘Near the eastern entrance to the park [Pearson] is a massive stone fountain, from the basin of which rises the figure of a mermaid, holding above her head a smaller basin.’ A drawing by pavement artist F S Smith in the 1880s shows the fountain in its original location in the park and a postcard in my collection dating from c.1907 (see right) shows it in detail.

This is clearly the fountain that was purchased following the closure of the Zoological Gardens on Spring Bank in 1862, which timed nicely with the opening of Pearson's Park that took place just a year earlier in August 1861. The fountain was removed from the Park, along with many other decorative features from our other parks, in the early 1950s [why?] - Council Parks & Burials Committee minutes reported ‘removal of urinal and cast iron fountain near Beverley Road entrance - £20’ in November 1951. Parts of the fountains in Pearson Park appear to have been re-used in a water feature that latterly stood at 'Fletchers Corner' in Jameson Street (see below).

Pearson Park Drinking fountain

Historian Sheahan writing in 1867, noted this fountain was donated by Henry John Atkinson, saying: - ‘this gentleman has also erected an elegant fountain in the park [Pearson] at a cost of £33. Its height is 9ft. 9in., it is constructed of cast iron and consists of four columns, from the capitals of which consoles, with griffin terminals, unite with arches formed of decorated mouldings, encircling ornamental shields, bearing the town’s arms. Surmounting this is an open and highly enriched dome, the apex being occupied by a crown. Under the canopy stands the font and basin. There are four drinking cups, hanging down bell fashion, and in front is represented an open bible, with the text 'Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst'. On the opposite side is inscribed 'Presented by Henry John Atkinson, Hull, 1864'.

Now a Grade II Listed Building, the fountain is described similarly in the listing’s detail as: - ‘Drinking fountain. 1864. Paid for by H J Atkinson. Cast-iron with stone plinth. Central stem with vine trail ornament and figures of lizards, with bulbous top and conical round bowl. Overall square pierced canopy topped with a pierced dome. Round posts and elaborate cusped round-headed opening on each side. Above each opening, a roundel with an inscription’. Another of F S Smith’s drawings shows the fountain in roughly the same location it is now.

The drinking fountain was ‘manufactured by Watten, MacFarlane & Co at a cost of £32’ according to a report in the Hull packet in September 1864. MacFarlane’s Saracen Foundry in Glasgow, also supplied some of Hull’s cast-iron urinals, and similar ones are shown in their catalogues as well as other web-sites discussing street furniture etc. It is made up from standard design panels, which can be seen within drinking fountains in many parts of the country, sometimes as four-sided fountains, sometimes as six-sided fountains. Similar examples exist in Bristol, near the Clifton suspension Bridge; in The Peoples Park, Glasgow; on the sea-front promenade at Cowes in the Isle of Wight and even in a park in Warrington; there were others on the seafront promenade at Cleethorpes, in Redcar and even in India. A six-sided version at Merthyr Tydfil is illustrated in The Decorative Tradition (see bibliography). Sadly it remains in quite a hidden corner of the park, and is not made the most of, but at least it is maintained and painted fairly often, as it has been recently in a version of the Kingston upon Hull Civic colour scheme. My photographs here show the fountain on January 13th 2010.

Pearson Park drinking fountain 2

A second and quite different drinking fountain was located in Pearson Park at the east side opposite the main gates. This feature survived into the 1950s and I believe it is the same one that is shown here in a photograph of around that time - unless anyone knows different?

It looks like one in an anonymous circa 1900 photograph of another park - and so may have been re-located as it seems so many of them were, or - it could be West Park but I think that's unlikely due to the open aspect, as the one in West Park was quite enclosed with shrubs etc.

Pearson Park drinking fountain 3

The 'Temple' fountain from Queens Road corner was brought to Pearson Park in 1925 according to council minutes of 18th March in that year. This photograph from the 1930s would seem to confirm this as the two are identical.

Pearson Park Lake fountains

A sketch by F S Smith made in the 1880s shows a fountain in the centre of the lake in Pearson Park, and later Edwardian postcard photographs such as mine shown here from c.1905, show the fountain still in place. Currently (January 2010) there are still three fountains in the lake and all three are still in use and working.

Jameson Street Mermaid fountain

It is likely that part of this feature was from the same fountain that was originally in the Zoological Gardens in the 1840s, then in Pearson Park from 1862, and then removed from Pearson Park in the 1950s. Chris Ketchell and I believed it was in part re-erected (initially the base of the dolphin fountain and later the top of the mermaid fountain?) in a water feature at Fletchers Corner (Jameson Street/King Edward Street) in 1956. Following its installation it became a 'wishing' fountain where passing children would deposit coins that were collected and used for good deeds; in the first two years more than £2,000 was collected and used to fund a senior citizens outing.

A report in the Hull Daily Mail in April 1981 noted ‘The old fountain, opened on May Day 1956, was named after the property company [Ravenseft] which developed part of the area when, as the Ravenseft amenity fountain, it comprised three dolphins - the fountain was restored, following vandalism, by the Humberside Association of Disc Jockeys, with the replacement of "a cast-iron mermaid which once stood in a lily pond in Pearson Park".’ The Mermaid fountain was finally removed in a more recent redevelopment of this area following the closure of Fletchers shop around 2008, leaving this corner a very ordinary cafe area. The photograph shown here is from c.1956 and comes from 'Hull in the 50s' (see bibliography), although I think that a further 'mermaid' bit was added on top of the original feature shown here - but that's just from memory - I'm sure one of you will correct me.

Postscript - The restored mermaid fountain was re-erected in a communal garden alongside the Western Library in Boulevard in 2013. The new amenity was unveiled as part of the opening ceremony of the re-furbished and extended Western Library by the dputy Lord Mayor Nadine Fudge, on Saturday 26 January 2013.

Queens Road 'Temple' drinking fountain

Edwardian postcards in my collection show this drinking fountain, which was on the north-east side of Queens Road alongside the former chapel that faced the Beverley Road. It was enabled by a donation of £50 left by land-owner, proprietor of the Hull Daily Express and a 'disputatious member of the Cottingham Local Board' (according to John Markham) Mr Joseph Temple of Palmerston House De Grey Street. Leaving £50 for a fountain to be called after his name. The local board didn't like the idea and suggested a drinking trough for horses after Mr Temple's death. In the end a compromise was reached and both a drinking fountain for humans and small troughs for animals were both built into the design. It appears to be of a design that was unique in Hull and stood near to a cab-stand and a cabman’s shelter that were situated here so it would seem a good place for the facility to have been sited for the horses and cab-men alike. The image here is an enlarged detail from a 1904 photograph.

As traffic increased during the late 1920s and 1930s this junction may have had its first traffic lights etc. and the drinking fountain was removed in 1925 (council minutes - in which it is called the 'Temple' fountain). It seems likely that this is the drinking fountain shown in a park photograph from the 1930s that I am suggesting may be Pearson Park as the two look identical it seems likely that this could have been re-located there when it was removed from Queens Road - council minutes in March 1925 noted: - 'that the fountain from the corner of Queens Road be removed and that the Parks & Gardens Committee be requested to find a site for the same in Pearson Park.'

Argyle Street/Anlaby Road drinking fountain

This drinking fountain was sited within the exterior of the boundary wall of the old work-house, now the site of the Hull Royal Infirmary, and shows clearly in the Edwardian (1904) postcard view from my collection shown here. It was given by Alderman Fountain according to Sheahan, and the Hull Times reported: - ‘Mr Fountain to erect a fountain at corner of Workhouse wall and Anlaby Road’ in its edition of 7 August 1858 [pre-dating London again].

It may have survived until the redevelopment of the site for the construction of the present Hull Royal Infirmary in the early 1960s. 

'King Billy' drinking fountain

A rare survivor, this drinking fountain is located on the north side of the pedestal of our famous statue of King William III in the Market Place. A report of the Works Committee in the Hull Packet in August 1880 noted that it was resolved ‘that the Waterworks Committee should be requested to erect a drinking fountain at the King William Statue, Market Place’, which gives a clear date for its addition to the statue.Although still in place the drinking fountain is no longer working, and probably wouldn’t comply with our modern Health & Safety requirements – possibly a reason for the removal of many of the original fountains along with vandalism. It is shown here in my photograph from 17th January 2010.

Victoria Pier Nelson Street

Another drinking fountain given by Alderman Thompson, and again historian Sheahan noted it was located: - ‘near the Victoria Pier, South-end’. It dated from 1858 when in the August of that year it was confusingly reported in the Hull Times that the Mayor made a ‘gift of two drinking fountains - Holy Trinity east wall - and at Pier'. The location of the fountain mentioned was clarified with this item in the Hull Packet 3rd September 1858: - 'THE MAYOR’S FOUNTAIN. - The beautiful public fountain erected by the mayor at his own sole expense at the corner of the corporation pier, and opposite the booking-office of the Manchester, Sheffield, and Lincolnshire Railway Company, was opened to the public on Saturday, and has since been crowded by water drinkers.  It is in the form of an urn of cast iron, but in the imitation of bronze, with two jets branching form a single pillar in the centre.  Water is uninterruptedly pouring into the basin of the urn, and there are two ladles chained to the pillar, and kept in perpetual use by visitors, of whom eight can find standing room close to the urn at one time.  It is an ornament to the ground and apparently much appreciated.'

Holy Trinity church ‘east wall’

A reference to the Mayor providing a gift of two drinking fountains was reported in the Hull Times in August 1858, one of which was to be located at the ‘Holy Trinity East Wall’. Staff at the church report that this is correct and a drinking fountain once stood outside the building at the east end; alas the fountain has been removed at some point and all that remains is the water supply. Thanks to Chris Fenwick at the Holy Trinity offices for help with information about this former fountain. 

Wilberforce Monument drinking fountain

Another of the drinking fountains given by Henry John Atkinson in 1858 according too Sheahan. It was located in the east face of the huge square base of the statue. The statue was then in its original position on ‘Monument bridge’, i.e. St. John Street – now the south side of Queen Victoria Square. The drinking fountain was probably not included when the monument was re-erected in 1935 in its new, and current, opposite the east end of Queen’s Gardens, outside the Hull College building.

Spring Bank

Sheahan noted that in June 1858 Henry John Atkinson presented two fountains to the town, one of which was erected ‘opposite the entrance to the Zoological Gardens’. In October 1858 an article in the Hull Times noted that the ‘drinking fountain by door of Zoological Gardens was nearer than that in Spring Row’, which suggests the fountain was located outside the gates of the gardens, on the north side of Spring Bank. 

An earlier article, in the Hull Packet of 27th August 1858 explains that this fountain was not always destined for Spring Bank however: - 

'DRINKING FOUNTAINS. - We regret to find that the directors of the Hull Dock Company have rescinded the resolution passed by them, granting permission to Mr. Henry J. Atkinson to put down a fountain on the Quay at the end of Lowgate.  In accordance with his original proposal, Mr. Atkinson had procured an ornamental independent fountain manufactured of iron, in the form of a vase, standing upon a pedestal, and which he has now got leave from the committee of works to put down upon the Spring-bank promenade, near to the Zoological Gardens, and from which the public will have the pleasure of receiving pure Spring-head water.

It should be mentioned that the directors of the Dock Company state that they are ready to consider the propriety of putting down fountains upon their Quays themselves for the use of the public, and we therefore trust they will shortly do what they decline to permit others to do for them, and have additional fountains erected in the vicinity of the docks.'

Spring Row

A solitary reference to a drinking fountain in ‘Spring Row’ in October 1858 when mentioning the Spring Bank fountain  (see above) - location unknown but possibly near the Blundell’s paint works – for the benefit of the workers? Spring Row can be taken to mean the north-east side of Spring Bank or the south-west side of Beverley Road during the first half of the 19th Century.

North Bridge

A free water fountain to be erected near the North Bridge was reported on, in the Hull Times of 16 January 1858. A later report in the Hull Packet in September 1859 noted that a ‘vote of thanks was passed to Mr [Thomas] Jackson for his gift of the drinking fountain at the foot of the North Bridge, and it was decided that the board should pay the annual acknowledgment of 1 shilling to the Dock Company for the same standing against their wall’.

The Dock Company clearly were not happy with this however as late that month they had removed the fountain from their property. Mr Jackson said he had obtained the permission of Mr Firbank, the chairman of the Dock Company, to erect the fountain but it had now been taken down. Mr Jackson considered this move a ‘monstrous thing’, and sought to reassure the Dock Company of certain matters to conserve their rights in the matter.

Presumably the fountain was re-fitted at some point, as a writer to the Hull Packet in 1870 noted that ‘before the old North Bridge was removed [1869-70 when it was replaced by a rolling bridge, which in turn was replaced by the present bridge in 1931] there stood on the south side of the western approach road a drinking fountain’. The writer went on to hope that it would be re-instated and it appears that it was. It is clearly shown in a slightly different location on the 1890 Ordnance Survey plan, against the wall of a warehouse on the north side of ‘Bridge-foot’, at the east side of North Bridge. Presumably it was finally removed in 1930-31 during the construction of the present bridge?

West Park Billaney drinking fountain

A drinking fountain was donated to the West Park in 1897 and became known as the Billaney Memorial drinking fountain; this ornate facility was erected just inside the park entrance and was similar in design to the surviving fountain in the Pearson Park. Sadly the drinking cup and chain were stolen just weeks after its erection and were reported in the press at the time. The fountain is shown here in a photograph from my collection dating from 1904 with the surviving West Park Lodge in the background. 

The fountain sustained damage during World War Two and was further damaged by a council vehicle and removed from the site; council minutes noted: - ‘General superintendent reported that the drinking fountain near the main entrance to the West Park which was erected many years ago as a memorial - sustained damage during the last war - recently further damaged by a vehicle - now removed from site (7498/9 Parks & Burial Committee minutes 25.10.1960).

West Park drinking fountain 2

Another drinking fountain is marked on the 1928 Ordnance Survey plan of the West Park (not shown on the 1908 plan) between the old Bandstand and the central decorative fountain (see below). Local lad Geoff Wilkinson recalled that there was a ‘large fountain near the rockery, with a canopy and more than one drinking place’ that was still there in the 1960s.

West Park central ornamental fountain

The city engineer submitted plans for a larger ornamental fountain in 1888, basing his design on the fountains in Prince’s Avenue but these were never carried out. But a smaller marble and stone fountain was purchased from the nearby Hymers College in 1893 (originally from the old Botanic Gardens off the south side of the Anlaby Road - see 'Botanic Gardens' item further down the page) at a cost of £10, and placed within a roundabout midway along the central carriage drive.

It was still shown on the 1928 Ordnance Survey plan and the central fountain can just be picked out in the middle of this enlarged section of a 1903 postcard view. Not the thing in the fore-ground - that's the top of one of the main gate pillars at the Anlaby Road entrance.

West Park small ornamental fountains

Two small ornamental fountains were located within the West Park Lake, either side of the island, and a third was added later situated within the rockery area, shown right in a 1904 photograph from my collection. The fountain can just be seen on the far right of the picture.

West Park paddling pool

The lake was converted into a play and paddling pool area in February 1957 and is now the site of an adventure playground; 1960s photographs show a small fountain within the paddling pool – could it have been supplied by the original fittings for the fountains in the lake?

Lowgate St. Mary’s church drinking fountain

Historian Sheahan noted: - ‘Beautiful drinking fountain, the gift of Richard Sykes, Esq., of West Ella, has been erected at the south-west corner of St. Mary’s churchyard. The larger portion is of Steetley stone, of Gothic design, and uniform with the exterior ornamentation of the Church. The bowl and the shaft are of red Peterhead granite polished, and above the former are the arms and crest of the Sykes family. The inscription is from Proverbs, 'As cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country'. The fountain cost about £150, and is from a design by Mr G G Scott, the eminent architect. On the 4th October 1864 the fountain was inaugurated in the presence of the Mayor and a large assemblage of gentlemen and townspeople. The Rev. John Scott having offered an appropriate prayer, and J A Sykes, Esq. (the donor being on the continent), drank the first cup of water from it. Addresses were then delivered by Mr Sykes, the Mayor, Rev. J Scott &c.’

The Hull packet of September 1864 reported that the drinking fountain works were ‘executed by Simpson & Malone (Stone masons of 69 Osborne Street in Hull - Jones’ 1864 directory) under the superintendence of Mr W Sissons the clerk of the works’. Sadly the fountain was described as ‘now smoke begrimed’ in an article in the Hull Packet in 1870 following the death of the benefactor Mr Sykes. 

The fountain was removed to just within the main gates into East Park at some point before the Second World War, and survived there until being removed during the construction of the new gates in the 1960s [?] but where is it now? It is shown here in an enlarged section of a postcard view of c.1903, from my collection. A Hull Packet newspaper report of the opening in 1864 can be read by clicking the link below, which opens a pdf file.

East Park decorative fountains

A decorative fountain is mentioned in the original design for the East Park (see bibliography) in the eastern central path, but was this part of the plan ever realised? The fountain is not mentioned in the description of the East Park, which opened in 1887, in Brown`s Illustrated Guide of 1890. Two decorative fountains are shown within the lake on the 1890 Ordnance Survey plan however. 

East Park drinking fountain

The drinking fountain from St Mary’s Lowgate that was removed to a site about 100 yards inside the East Park gates, and remained there until the park entrance was redeveloped in the late 1950s or early 1960s. But where is it now - hopefully it resides within the museums' stores? Local Norman Angell recalls: - There was a drinking fountain in East Park and it was situated about 100 yards from the gates inside the park, where the circular road runs to the left and right, Behind the fountain, the entrance road continued as a footpath, and still does, straight through the park to rejoin the circular road near the boating lake. My main memory of the fountain is of the big, heavy, brass drinking cup, which was attached to the fountain by a strong chain. Mother never let us use this cup but always brought along a glass tumbler in her bag which we had to use'. This photograph dates from the 1950s I would guess, and shows the fountain in a sorry state.

East Park Lido drinking fountain

Mike Scrimshaw – another local lad, recalls a drinking fountain within the East Park Lido facility.

Pickering Park Rowntree drinking fountain

This drinking fountain is a memorial to Elizabeth Ann Rowntree and includes a bronze relief portrait dated May 1912. This fountain was presented to the City of Hull by George Rowntree in memory of his wife. It is shown here in a 1930s photograph and is now located at the end of a new aviary.

Marlborough Avenue fountain

Chris and I could only find this one photograph from c.1905 that showed this fountain, the one that he used in the short History of the Avenues booklet produced in 1989, which confirms that it was of the same design as the other Avenues fountains. Each fountain was located in a ‘circus’ very much in the French tree-lined boulevard style.

The Marlborough Avenue fountain was similar to the Westbourne and Park Avenue fountains except it was missing the four figures of mermaids blowing conches and stood on a slightly lower base. It was removed in June 1926 along with the Victoria Avenue fountain and those in Prince's Avenue.

Westbourne Avenue fountain

Another of the four main Avenues fountains, at the junction with Salisbury Street and now a Grade II Listed Building. In its listing description it is described as: - ‘Ornamental fountain, now a flower trough. C1875. Cast-iron. Cruciform base carrying an octagonal pedestal with 4 scroll brackets and 4 figures of mermaids blowing conches. Shallow round basin with lily leaf decoration in relief. Above, a smaller octagonal pedestal with 4 life-size figures of herons, with a smaller shallow basin containing a scroll bracketed spout’. The Westbourne Avenue and Park Avenue fountains were of the same design.

A photograph of the Westbourne Avenue fountain in the early 1930s shows a large round (gas?) lamp (gas or electric?) at the top of the fountain. The fountains in Westbourne Avenue and Park Avenue were restored by the Avenues Residents Association in 1975 to mark the European Architectural Heritage Year. This is now the only surviving fountain from the original six and is shown here in a 1904 photograph.

Park Avenue fountain

The third of the main Avenues fountains, again at the junction with Salisbury Street, which was sadly damaged in recent years. The original structure was another Grade II Listed Building and has now been replaced by a modern version of the original, which is a welcome addition. Its original Listed Building description described it as: - ‘Ornamental fountain, now a plant trough. c1875. Cast-iron. Cruciform base carrying octagonal pedestal with 4 scroll brackts and 4 figures of mermaids blowing conches. Shallow basin with relief decoration. Above, a smaller octagonal pedestal flanked by 4 life-size figures of herons, carrying a smaller shallow basin containing a scrolled central spout’.

This fountain was also restored in 1975 as part of the European Cultural Heritage year, and is shown here in another 1904 photograph from my collection. 

Victoria Avenue fountain

The Victoria Avenue fountain appears to have been a unique design, quite different to the other three sited along the Salisbury Street junctions and is seen here in 1904 looking south into Salisbury Street towards Park Avenue. The fourth of the Avenues almost identical fountains, this one was removed with the Marlborough Avenue and Prince's Avenue fountains in June 1927, and is well overdue for a modern replacement of some sort – perhaps even a modern design too - rather than another copy-cat?

As the cartoon shown right illustrates, despite a poll of avenues residents in which 80% were in favour of keeping all the fountains, the Prince's Avenue, Marlborough and Victoria Avenue fountains were the subject of prlonged debate. Despite this, the fountains were removed in June 1927, the reasons being given were mainly that the fountains proved to awkward for increased levels of motor traffic. 

Prince’s Avenue fountain 1

There are two points along Prince’s Avenue where the road widens for no apparent reason. The first is at the junction with Park Grove and Blenheim Street, which was the location for another of the Avenue’s original six fountains. The Prince’s Avenue fountains certainly worked as fountains for a number of years as rare views exist of them actually with water, and one of the few photographs was shown in the Avenues History booklet in 1989. However this was possibly only for the first 30 or 40 years as most photographs from the Edwardian era show them overgrown. Corporation minutes from 1887 record suggestions for them to 'planted' at that early stage.

Both Prince’s Avenue fountains were removed in 1926 as trams and general traffic began to dominate street and road design. The Prince’s Avenue fountains were of the same design as those in Westbourne and Park Avenue. It is seen here in 1905 with what is now Ray's Place restaurant in the background.

Prince’s Avenue fountain 2

The second of Prince’s Avenue’s fountains – this being situated outside the entrance to Pearson Park, at the Westbourne Avenue junction, where the taxis and police cars now park occasionally. Reports of the inefficient workings of the fountains did receive mention in letters to the press in the late 19th Century.

The six fountains in the Avenues were part of the original layout of the Westbourne Park Estate and are clearly shown on Peck’s 1875 plan of Hull, which is contemporary with the opening of the Avenues.  The fountains (or at least one of them) were also in action during the opening ceremony of The Prince’s Bank Avenue (now Prince’s Avenue) as reported in the Hull and Lincolnshire Times 3rd April 1875 ‘...The band then struck up the National Anthem, and the fountain commenced playing.’ The newspaper report of the 'Opening of the Prince’s Avenue' noted: - ‘We may add that the various street formations are under the superintendence of Mr. C F Butler, C E, and that Messrs Hebblewaite, Son, and Bruce have charge of the erection of the fountains, and the carrying out of other works’. This may have been the surveyor T F Hebblethwaite of 2 Granville Terrace, Beverley Road that was listed in Hunt’s 1876 Hull directory and Benjamin John Elder Bruce, civil engineer, architect & surveyor, 1 Parliament Street (Kelly`s 1885 directory) who was a former Waterworks engineer. The fountains were supplied by King & Company, Market Place, Hull according to a report in the Hull News in September 1874, and are reputed to be based on the designs of the fountain shown at the Great Exhibition (according to ‘A Short History of the Avenues Conservation Area’) although they bear little resemblance to drawings of that fountain in the press of the time. Only one of the original six fountains, that in Westbourne Avenue, now survives.


Located in another ‘circus’ at the junction of Boulevard, Cholmley Street and Gordon Street this Avenue style fountain was constructed c.1871 and was described in Sheperdson’s Guide to Hull in 1875 as: - ‘about midway [of Boulevard] there is a large circular space with a colossal fountain in the centre’. It was very similar but not exactly the same, as the fountains along Prince's Avenue and is seen here in 1904 when much of the Boulevard remained undeveloped.

All of the fountains were prone to traffic accidents it seems and the Boulevard fountain was no exception; on the 27th August 1924 the fountain was hit by a car and badly damaged as shown in the photograph below right. It was removed soon after to places unknown [where did all these bits of fountains disappear to?]. Happily, a campaign to have a new fountain in the Boulevard was successful and in 2009 a fine new - and working - fountain was constructed.

Geoff Wilkinson recalls that there may also have been a drinking fountain within the Boulevard scheme, which survived the removal of the main fountain: - ‘... there was a drinking fountain, we as kids used to go there, and you know those iron mugs on chains, and you used to have to press a button and the water would come out and fill it, and we used to have a drink out of it on our way to school. They were right in the middle of the road there, there was a little island, and you could walk round it, and stand there so you didn’t get knocked down or anything. There was two of these iron cups either side on chains. Opposite there when I first went to live down there, was a horse trough and the horses and carts or carriages used to stop their horses and have a drink...’  However, it's hard to find any evidence of this on maps or photographs.

Park Street

A less grand but equally impressive fountain was situated at the north side of the Park Street road bridge. It shows on Pettingell’s Birds Eye View of Hull made c. 1880, and pavement artist F S Smith drew the fountain c.1889 (as shown here curtesy of Hull Museums) - but it was no longer apparent on the 1889 Ordnance Survey plan of the area.

An article in the Hull Packet in August 1880 noted that at a council meeting it had been suggested that: - ‘considering the convenience of the public, recommended the removal of the drinking fountain in Park Street to some more appropriate site; and the secretary be requested to send a copy of the resolution to the Town Clerk. An amendment was proposed by Mr Moore, that the council be requested to move the fountain to a site opposite the Hull & East Riding College. The original motion was adopted.’ It seems the fountain remained some time after as in June 1884 a complaint was recorded in the same newspaper: - ‘whilst in the vicinity of Park Street Bridge I would call attention to the state of the drinking fountain stationed there. Let the weather be as wet or dry as possible, there is always to be found round the well a large lake of water, and generally a group of dirty youngsters paddling in it, and playing with the filthy liquor, greatly to the annoyance of passers-by. Surely something can be done to improve this quarter of the town. I’m sure it’s much in need of it.’

General Infirmary Prospect Street

Two decorative fountains are shown on the 1889/91 Ordnance Survey plan of the old hospital in Prospect Street, located in the gardens at the front and one of these can be seen on an F S Smith drawing dated 1884. They are also shown on later postcard views of the building such as this 1910 view of mine that shows both of the fountains. The exact date when these fountains first appeared is unknown, but they still appeared on both the 1908 and 1928 Ordnance Survey plans but were gone by the time of the 1949 Ordnance Survey plans; nor are they shown in a January 1956 photograph of the building in the Terry Mills collection.

It seems these fountains may have been removed to make way for car parking at the hospital, unless they were damaged during the Blitz of the Second World War?

Botanic Gardens

Robert Barnard’s publication about the new Botanic Gardens (see bibliography) mentions a ‘large marble fountain that had formed part of the 1851 great Exhibition [that] stood in an expansive basin amidst the flower garden’. These new botanic gardens, of c.1880, were situated south of the present Hymers College, which includes part of the former botanic gardens site within its grounds. This was the fountain that was purchased by the Council for £10 in 1893 and later re-sited in the middle of the West Park on the Anlaby Road.

Reckitt's War Memorial fountain

Another of Hull’s Grade II Listed buildings is the memorial to those who fought in the wars by Reckitt & Colman, situated in their grounds in Dansom Lane. The listed building description describes it as: - ‘Commemorative memorial. Dated 1926. By W. Aumonier. Paid for by the company employees. Ashlar and bronze. Square pedestal with chamfered plinth and square base, enriched with leaf decoration at the top. On the front face, a portrait medallion. Half-size bronze figure of seated woman and child. Around the pedestal, a square paved area, At each corner, a square block supported by volutes, topped with a small bronze figure of a child. The memorial was erected as a tribute to Sir James Reckitt, a notably philanthropic employer’.

But, Chris Ketchell noted - the Sir James Reckitt memorial is actually a separate piece of sculpture - a group representing the "Spirit of Industry" - The Meaning of the Memorial. He was quoting the sculptor W Aumonier, writing in Reckitt’s ‘OURS’ magazine in July 1921 (‘your editor has invited me to write a short article describing the evolution of the memorial Fountain now nearing completion…’).

Queen’s Gardens main fountain

One feature that survives is the large decorative illuminated fountain, in a ‘circus’ at west end of the gardens that was built as part of original design of Queen’s Gardens in 1935. A newspaper report of the time noted: - ‘Thousands of people flocked to the newly opened Queens Gardens in Hull hoping to see the illuminated fountain in action but they were disappointed. The council had decided it should not play on Sundays’ (reproduced in Hull Daily Mail in September 1985. The fountain, and the smaller fountains around it, are now part of a pedestrianised area and is still well appreciated by tourists and locals and is shown here in a photograph dating from June 1957.

Queen’s Gardens

A number of decorative fountains featured in the ponds; those at the eastern end designed as part of the sculptured panels of 1960, by Robert Adams [1917-1984]. Doris Gagen, in her ‘Public Sculpture in Hull’ noted: - ‘Like it or not the feature is one of the few examples in Britain of the artist’s work and the only example in Hull of English Modernist sculpture’.

My photograph shows the sculpture with integral fountains in January 2010, and as is quite apparent, this another of Hull's public structures that could do with a bit of a clean. In the background is the Hull College main building and the Wilberforce monument.

Queen’s Gardens drinking fountain

A large circular sculptured table featuring several individual push-button drinking fountains is still located in the north-east corner of the gardens, and dates from the c.1960 refurbishment of the gardens, although it has not worked for many years. My photograph here shows it in January 2010.

Wilberforce House garden

A fountain consisting of a heron intertwined by a snake, in the courtyard at the rear of Wilberforce House was removed and the lily pond filled-in following repeated break-ins and thefts of coins thrown in the pond by visitors to the museum c.1985 according to museum staff. The fountain probably dated from the original garden design of c.1950.

Oak Road playing field

An ornamental fountain was located in the paddling pool at Oak Road children’s playground in the 1960s according to local Mike Scrimshaw.

Costello playing field Peter Pan Park

Another fountain was located in the childrens’ paddling pond here - again, according to Mike Scrimshaw.

Carr Lane

An alleged water feature, possibly a small waterfall, in a raised flower-bed outside the former Willis Ludlow department store in Carr Lane, c.1969 according to Mike Scrimshaw. Possibly removed in the development of Prince’s Quay etc. c.1980.

Street Life Museum High Street

Mike Scrimshaw also recalls a fountain in the original pond in Nelson Mandella Gardens, with a statue of 'Minerva', in front of site of Street Life museum (c.1984) that was re-sited c.1994?

King Edward Street

A feature (fountain?) that was in-situ around 1986, and designed by the then City Architect, Ian Colquhoun - demolished c.1995.

Victoria Dock

A ‘cascade’ water feature in the pond on site of the patent slip-way, c.1994. The Victoria Dock estate also has four other fountains in working order (or they were in July 2010 - see photo on the right) situated in the old dock basin, which has been retained within the estate.

Hull Royal Infirmary Anlaby Road

A 'water feature' by local sculptor Kevin Storch was commissioned by the Royal Hull Hospitals Trust for the new buildings at the Hull Royal Infirmary on the Anlaby Road c.1997. This was illustrated in ‘Public Sculpture in Hull’ by Doris Gagen, an unpublished project for an Open University course Visual Studies: Art History - VIS 163, a copy of which was held in the former Hull College Local History Unit (the article – not the water feature).

Prince’s Quay shopping centre

Two fountains were placed in the former Prince’s Dock alongside the new shopping complex, c.1995, which remain to this day. 

The Maltings Silvester Street

A small fountain (as part of Kevin Storch’s 'The Drayman' sculpture) was located in the landscaped courtyard at The Maltings office complex (formerly The Hull Brewery) in Silvester Street, c.1990.

Spring Bank

A contentious decision was made to erect a very radical water feature at the top of Spring Street and the corner of Spring Bank [when?], which still survives but is generally disliked, mostly due to its illuminated tower that is thought rather industrial for the average passer-by.

©  Paul Gibson January 2010

revised and extended from an original study in November 2000 by Chris Ketchell & Paul Gibson

Bibliography & Sources

F S Smith Sketche courtesy and copyright Hull Museums

Troughs & Drinking Fountains: Fountains of Life. Philip Davies.

An Explosion at Hull Botanic Gardens 25 September 1882 A Reprint of the Official Report With A brief History of the New Gardens. (ed.) Robert Barnard. Local History Unit, Hull College

Chatto Curiosities of the British Street. Chatto & Windus, 1989.

History of the Town and Port of Kingston upon Hull. James Joseph Sheahan. John Green, Beverley second edition, 1866.

The Hull Packet newspaper online c/o British Library

From 'Slough of Despond' to 'Noble Boulevard' A Chronology for David Parkinson Garbutt and The Westbourne Park Estate... C. Ketchell. Local History Unit, Hull College, 1989

Hull As It Was. Iain Rutherford. Hendon Publishing Co. Ltd., Nelson, 1982

Brown’s Illustrated Guide to Hull. Edmund Wrigglesworth. A. Brown & Sons, Hull, 1890.

Hull In The 1950s: A Pictorial Diary of Life in Kingston upon Hull. John E. Smith. Hutton Press Ltd., Cherry Burton, 1994

The City & County of Kingston upon Hull. (guidebook) Development Committee of the City Council n/d c.1960

Revised List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest City of Kingston upon Hull. Department of National Heritage, 1994

Hull Museums

The Decorative Tradition. Julian Richards. The Architectural Press, 1973

Hull Then & Now. Paul Gibson. Carnegie Heritage Centre, 2008.

The Anlaby Road. Paul Gibson. Friends of Lonsdale Community Centre, 2007.

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