In 1859 The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was set up in London at a time when untreated sewage, factory waste and water-borne cholera were rife in the city. More importantly, access to free clean drinking water was inadequate and animal welfare was poor. Within two weeks of its conception, the first drinking fountain was opened in London and was used by more than 7,000 people every day. In the two years that followed, a further 85 fountains were opened.
ORIGINAL DRINKING FOUNTAIN ST SEPULCHRE CHURCH, LONDON
TEMPERANCE FOUNTAIN IN BATH
The Association was linked to the Temperance Movement. Establishing drinking fountains was one of the many methods the National British Women’s Temperance Association (N.B.W.T.A) took to promote abstinence from alcohol. Tea and coffee was expensive, so the idea was that the provision of water would reduce drunkenness. Fountains were sometimes placed opposite public houses, to give patrons the option to freely drink fresh, clean water instead of alcohol. In the years that followed, the N.B.W.T.A gifted drinking fountains to cities around the United Kingdom. These were sometimes called ‘Temperance Fountains’ or featured the Greek mythical figure for temperance, Sophrosyne.
The Little Cold Water Girl
In the late 1800’s Temperance Fountains were established in various states across America. In 1893 a bronze fountain of a young girl offering a shallow basin of water was erected in Chicago, named in honour of the Temperance Reformer Frances Willard. This was the original Little Cold Water Girl fountain. Subsequent Little Cold Water Girl fountains were then established in Portland, Oregon and Detroit, Michigan. In 1896, Lady Henry Somerset prompted a similar fountain to be created for London.
THE COLD WATER GIRL FOUNTAIN, CHICAGO
THE COLD WATER GIRL FOUNTAIN, LONDON
The significance of the girl is to represent all of the young children who signed the Temperance Pledge, and was gifted by the White Ribbon Children. The fountain is mounted on a granite base and bears the inscription: “I was thirsty and ye gave me drink”. The statue had been vandalised over the years, but a replacement was erected several years ago. It can be visited in the Eastern Victoria Gardens near to Victoria Embankment in London.