Visiting Seahorses Square and 1865 drinking fountain, Eastbourne, England: cast iron structure with Biblical engravings
Victorians stooping to drink
This old drinking fountain (1) is situated at Seahorses Square, Eastbourne, in England's county of East Sussex, a short distance from Eastbourne's bracing sea front.
The structure dates from 1865. Executed in cast iron, it rests on octagonal steps in Portland stone: three layers of steps in all.
The drinking fountain was originally erected under the sponsorship of Elizabeth Curling (1790-1873). Thus it was that in the 19th century, the person who paid for the structure in 1865 would already have been regarded as a rather elderly lady, in an era when life expectancy was lower than today.
Shelves exist within the structure which formerly harboured cups for use at the fountain; these have been lost over the course of the years.
The restored lamp atop the drinking fountain used to be gas powered. One can just picture the Victorian lamplighter illuminating the lantern, in a town which in the 19th century was growing as a popular place of vacation. I have included (right) a photo of an illustration depicting a 19th century lamplighter, dating from 1894 (2).
Engraved on the drinking fountain are two quotations: Jesus said: Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again, and Jesus said, Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst, taken from John 4.13 &14.
The 19th century preacher and writer C H Spurgeon, who in some ways symbolized a significant segment of Victorian religious thought in England, commented that socially in his era a certain humility was required for passers-by to avail themselves of water from a drinking fountain, while rich, well dressed travellers might well choose to pass by in their carriages with parched lips, too embarrassed to alight in order to stoop and drink.
On the structure there are also two inscriptions in Roman numerals of the year when the fountain was erected: MDCCCLXV (3).
The drinking fountain's current location dates from 2000, but it previously stood at different spots on nearby Seaside (a road which needs to be written thus, to differentiate it from Seaside Road, its continuation further west).
Interestingly, the lantern rests upon the figures of two dolphins interlaced with one another. The depiction of marine creatures is particularly appropriate, given the proximity of the site to the sea, and also perhaps because it is near to a suburb of Eastbourne formerly often referred to as Marine Village.
November 18, 2013
(1) Some sourcing from English Heritage, under which this structure is listed.
(2) During the blackout in England in World War Two, it is well known that street crime soared: surely a throwback to the days before significant public lighting for which there was little nostalgia.
(3) Those of us who have spent many hours in libraries looking at old volumes will have had to familiarize ourselves with this nowadays far less common practice of expressing numerals.
Also worth seeing
In Eastbourne itself, there are various, noted church buildings which include the Church of St Mary the Virgin in Old Town, dating from the 12th century; and the Italianate All Souls Church, other attractions include: the Beachy Head cliffs; Eastbourne Pier; Holywell; the Redoubt fortress; Sovereign Harbour; the Martello Wish Tower; Leaf Hall, the 19th century Town Hall; and many others.
How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York - Newark to London Heathrow Airport, where car rental is available. (Distance from London Heathrow to Eastbourne : 146 kilometres.) For access by road, take M25/M23/A23/A27. There are rail links to Eastbourne from London Victoria railroad station. Please note that some facilities may be withdrawn without notice. You are advised to check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.