“Water, water, every where,/Nor any drop to drink.”*

*from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (text of 1834) BY SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

Image: A granite drinking fountain sculpted in the shape of an Ancient Egyptian obelisk and erected in the middle of Teddington, Middlesex in honour of Queen Victoria’s jubilee. On public display ever since.

From the website of the Drinking Fountain Association:

“When the Association was set up in London in 1859 it was against a background of a filthy river Thames full of untreated sewage, rubbish and effluent from factories, water borne cholera, but most importantly inadequate free drinking water. An article in Punch magazine at the time of the Great Exhibition in 1851 said ‘Whoever can produce in London a glass of water fit to drink will contribute the best and most universally useful article in the whole exhibition’. Then in 1858 a paper read to the National Association for the Promotion of Social Science on the work being done to improve sanitary arrangements provoked much nation interest, and Samuel Gurney M.P rapidly took up its comments. He set up the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association (as it was then called) in 1859. Prince Albert wrote conveying his deep interest in the objects of the Association. Others giving their support included the Archbishop of Canterbury and a number of other prominent people.

So it was the first fountain was unveiled, on 21 April 1859, at the boundary wall of St.Sepulchre’s church, Snow Hill before a large enthusiastic crowd. (In fact it was recorded for posterity in an engraving, which appeared in the Illustrated London News).

Within a short time it was being used daily by around 7,000 people. Philanthropists started to contribute funds, and so more fountains were erected, and within 11 years there were 140 fountains in place, in addition to 153 cattle troughs. In 1867 the Association’s official title was changed to include ‘cattle troughs’ when the Association decided they must help the plight of animals who could be driven to London markets for days, without water. By 1885 over 50,000 horses were drinking daily from the Association’s troughs in London.”

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