Who Owns The Drinking Fountain

Doris C.H. Hobbs

In the last Review (March) Leo Held asked who owns the South Norwood Hill drinking fountain.

The drinking fountain inserted into the cartilage wall of 25 South Norwood High Street belongs to us as residents and in particular is in the possession of Croydon Council who is responsible for its upkeep.

It was erected in 1887 in honour of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the money being collected by Mr. A.P.C Coote of 12 Lancaster Road.  The cost was £32 plus £10 for erection.  The coloured polished granites came from the West Country and it was made by Whiteheads of Kennington Oval.  It weighs 7 ½ cwts. It was provided by the Metropolitan Cattle Trough and Drinking Fountain Association, founded as a charity in 1859, as a result of the temperance movement, a decade after the passing of a Public Health Act permitting towns to provide clean piped water in towns.  Charitable parsons would give them money to provide troughs and fountains where necessary or as in this case at a particular point.  This association is still in being and active, setting up many of the modern fountains.

At one time this fountain had the usual metal cup on a chain and the fitting can still be seen, but it was removed in 1946 for public health reasons.  (Although some of us who were children before the war came to no harm drinking out of these communal cups!) 

The reason, probably, that it was placed in this particular position was to refresh the porters and errand boys before the long drag up south Norwood Hill, in the days when the Hill was unmade and rough or muddy and steeper and narrower.  The widening and bump removal took place since the last war.

Nothing is known of Mr Coote.  He lived in a large detached house, still standing although very seedy looking, and must have had money.  The house then was newly erected.  |He lived there from 1883/4 and by 1889 the house was unoccupied.  The local business registers would tell us if he died or moved away.  He is not mentioned in the list of local trades and professions.

The Borough Engineer was in correspondence with me in 1974 when it was proposed to move the fountain into the Stanley Halls wall, but it was decided to leave it where it was.  At that time it came under the aegis of the Fairfield Hall Committee.  It is my opinion that it is best left alone until or unless 25 High Street is redeveloped and it comes under threat.  As far as I know there is no proposal to site it anywhere else, although who knows, if someone were to offer to pay to move it to a suitable place what the decision would be?  There is no doubt as to the Council’s present ownership, these items were always handed over to the authorities concerned because they became responsible for the supply of water, etc.

© The Norwood Society, Registered Charity 285547

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