Daffodils are beginning to bloom (even in this awful wet weather!) and Sunday 1 March marks celebrations in honour of the Patron Saint of Wales, St David. I thought it would be good to share an historical link that our association has with Newport in South Wales.
Temperance organisations began to provide drinking fountains to discourage people from drinking alcohol at a time when it was an alternative to drinking water which could potentially be contaminated, leading to epidemics such as Cholera.
Across north and south Wales in 1913 there was a considerable temperance movement and The British Women’s Temperance Association records of this year record 341 branches with over 20,000 members (276 branches were of the affiliated North Wales Temperance Union).
In 1996 a drinking fountain in Newport outside St Woolos Cathedral was unveiled, with wording on the fountain which reads “PRESENTED TO THE TOWN OF NEWPORT IN THE NAME OF THE BRITISH WOMEN’S TEMPERANCE ASSOCIATION. ERECTED 1913”.
A letter we received from Newport Council provided some background information, that the fountain was presented by a past president of BWTA, name unknown. It originally stood by the gates to Belle Vue Park before being moved in front of St Woolos Cathedral following restoration to its former glory, with the unveiling ceremony taking place on 19 November 1996. The letter states that the fountain was made by Royal Doulton, appearing in a 1910 catalogue and is a Grade II listed structure.
The president of The British Womens Temperance Association in 1913 was Rosalind Countess of Carlisle and some research into our records did not produce any information about the presentation of this fountain to Newport directly from our Association or Countess of Carlisle. This seems strange in view of the fact that it is a splendid and ornate fountain which would have presumably been quite costly and would have been a significant enough event to record, but I could find no mention of it. Interestingly the wording on the fountain states that it was presented ‘in the name of’ the BWTA rather than ‘by’ the BWTA, which might intimate that this was more of a personal gift from someone rather than directly from the Association.
After some further research I did manage to find a connection to Newport and a ‘past’ president, Lady Henry Somerset. Lady Henry Somerset’s husband, Lord Henry Somerset, was MP for Monmouthshire albeit in an earlier period and historically Newport came under the County of Monmouthshire. Was Lady Henry the ‘past’ president who gifted this fountain to Newport in the name of our association? We cannot be sure without records to prove it but it is a possibility and records may come to light with answers. If they do we will keep you posted……for now we wish you a very happy St David’s Day.