James Sellars, architect; John Mossman, sculptor; H Pringle & Co bronze founders, 1872 (inscribed J Sellars and dated). Elaborately carved ornate Gothic fountain. Sandstone ashlar with granite, marble and majolica dressings and cast-bronze sculpture. 3 tiered basins, middle one with inset flying buttresses supported by lions sedant on plinths. Central shaft rises to support bronze statute of draped female figure. Wide plain grey granite outer basin at ground level. Main inner basin ashlar, with 4 diminutive aedicule features which take the form a wall-tomb/reliquary: marble colonnettes support pediments each side of bronze panel recessed in ogival frame. "Fish scale" ogee canopy links the 2 pediments. Of the 4 semi-circular bronze panels those to N and S contain medallion portrait of Stewart and a dedicatory inscription. Those to E and W have symbolic bas-relief representations of Loch Katrine and Glasgow (E) and the Lady of the Lake (W). Middle basin has ceramic roundel insets of zodiacal signs.
Statement of Special Interest
A striking and well-detailed example of High Victorian public sculpture, designed by one of Glasgow's leading architects and with sculpture by the city's leading sculptor. It was erected in commemoration of Lord Provost Robert Stewart and the completion of the Glasgow Corporation Water Works, an engineering feat of international importance that supplied Glasgow with fresh drinking water from Loch Katrine.
Glasgow's Lord Provost, Robert Stewart (1810-66) was the driving force behind the implementation of a municipally-owned water scheme to provide clean water to Glasgow's rapidly increasing population. Loch Katrine was identified as a suitable supply and after some objections from various parties, an Act of Parliament authorising the scheme was passed in 1855. The scheme was built in two main phases following this Act and another 1885. The 1855 scheme was opened by Queen Victoria in 1859 and was fully operational by 1860.
The Glasgow Corporation Water Works system, which brings water down to Glasgow from Loch Katrine, was admired internationally as an engineering marvel when it was opened in 1860. It was one of the most ambitious civil engineering schemes to have been undertaken in Europe since Antiquity, employing the most advanced surveying and construction techniques available, including the use of machine moulding and vertical casting technologies to produce the cast-iron pipes. The scheme represents the golden age of municipal activity in Scotland and not only provided Glasgow with fresh drinking water, thereby paving the way for a significant increase in hygiene and living standards, but also a source of hydraulic power that was indispensable to the growth of Glasgow's industry as a cheap and clean means of lifting and moving heavy plant in docks, shipyards and warehouses. The civic pride in this achievement is visible in every structure connected with the scheme, with this fountain providing the final flourish.
Following Robert Stewart's death in 1866 there was a general agreement in the City Council that a memorial should be erected to commemorate the huge contribution he had made to the improvement of Glasgow. It had also been decided that a monument was required to celebrate the completion of the water supply scheme in which Stewart had been so heavily involved. After much discussion it was agreed to combine these two memorials in a single fountain. Kelvingrove Park, which had been created during Stewart's term of office, was chosen as the most suitable location. An architectural competition was held in the summer of 1870, which attracted 75 entries; James Sellars was selected as the winner.
The imagery on the fountain largely relates to the romantic folklore associated with the Trossachs, particularly Sir Walter's poem, The Lady of the Lake. The top figure, which was originally gilded, represents the heroine of the poem, Ellen Douglas, and one of the bronze reliefs is an illustration of Canto II, v4-5 and shows Ellen, her spaniel and the minstrel Allan Bane. A full account of the imagery of the fountain and its history is to be found in McKenzie.
List description updated as part of the thematic review of Glasgow's water supply system (2008).
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