Tuesday, April 8, 2008

My cup runneth over

On my way to the superb Ye Olde Mitre for an evening of Adnam's Broadside and pork pies, I passed this old drinking fountain at the corner of Holborn Viaduct and Giltspur Street. I've noticed it before, but never really looked. I was astounded to find that its original cups are still fastened to it by chains. Apparently it was put there in 1859 by Samuel Gurney MP, although it was originally built into the wall of St Sepulchre's church. Drinking water in London was appalling in the mid 1880s - there had been cholera epidemics in 1849 (that one killed nearly 15,000 Londoners) and 1854, when John Snow proved that Cholera was a water-borne disease. Clearly, a source of clean drinking water was needed. This fountain was the first of many installed by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, of which Gurney was a founder. These cups have fared better than the ones attched to the Shaftesbury Memorial Fountain - better known as Eros - in Piccadilly Circus. When that opened in 1893, all eight cups fitted to it by hand-wrought chains were stolen within days, 6 of them going in the first night.

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