The Drinking Fountain and Horse Trough

In the days of horse power the sight of drinking troughs was a normal feature of the urban landscape. The combined drinking fountain and horse trough in Main Road of Radcliffe on Trent although no longer used for its intended purpose is protected by being listed (Grade II) as a structure of historical and architectural interest.

The idea of this construction was first mooted in a letter from a Miss Cooper addressed to the Parish Council in July 1895 asking the councillors ‘to consider the great need of a drinking trough in the principal thoroughfare’. The council did agree to consider the matter, but nothing was done at that time. It wasn’t until six years later that a Miss Katherine de Hersant  inquired whether the council would maintain a drinking fountain and horse trough if such an amenity were to be provided  by public subscription.   (Miss de Hersant was a French born spinster of independent means who was living on Bingham Road at the time. She was also a supporter of the Women’s  Suffrage movement in Nottingham).

The council enquired of the Nottingham city water department about the probable  cost of supplying the water. The following information was supplied-:

            if your parish council erect a drinking fountain and cattle trough, we would supply it through a meter…

            as we do to those in the city. The consumption varies in different localities, being as low as 2,000 gallons

            and up to 20,000 gallons per quarter, the average being 12,000 gallons. All work in connection with the            

            supply, putting in service, fixing meter etc would have to be borne by your council.

The Parish Council passed a resolution on September 9th, 1901 that if the fountain and trough were provided by public subscription, they would accept it as a gift, maintain it, and supply it with water. Naturally, a committee was formed with the Hon. Mrs Noel (a Lamcote House resident) as president and Miss de Hersant as secretary. The sum of £100 was raised (the final cost is not known). Mr G H Blatherwick (a local architect) produced the design and the construction was entrusted to Mr J G Thomas of Lenton Boulevard, Nottingham.

The main part of the finished work was of Pilth stone in the form of a large cupola ornamented with a finial of classic design and supported by similar finials on each side (sadly no longer there). The trough and bowl were of polished red granite and the whole construction was 11ft 6ins high, (3.5M), 6ft 6ins in breadth, (2M), and 2ft (0.6M) through in the narrowest part of the shaft.

Things went well and by June 10th, 1902 the council chairman authorised an order on the city water department making the parish responsible for the water charges. A copper plate was fixed just above the horse trough and read as follows:

            Erected by public subscription to commemorate

            the coronation of Edward VII June 26th 1902.

            Unveiled by the Hon Mrs Noel.

Unfortunately, the best laid schemes of the council did not go as planned. In March Mrs Noel tripped over a mat in church and broke her hip and in June of that year the new king was taken ill with appendicitis and his coronation was postponed until August 9th  1902.

Nevertheless, the council decided to go ahead  with the unveiling and at 2.30p.m on 26th June the children from both day and Sunday schools were drawn up in a square in front of the fountain. A short prayer was  given by Rev H Needham and a hymn was sung. Mrs Noel’s place was taken by Miss Yeomans (her companion) who ‘most gracefully carried out the unveiling and declared the fountain open’. The water was turned on with a decorated key which was subsequently presented to Mrs Noel as a souvenir.

Unveiling of the fountain

Fair use was made of the new facilities allowing horses and cattle passing along the Main Road to quench their thirsts from the trough on the roadside  and villagers to quench their thirst from the tap and chained metal cup on the pavement side. The cost of the water in 1904 was £1.6s.6d which indicates  approx. 12,500 gallons was used. It was cleaned and repaired in 1919 by a local firm and resumed serving the community from the Autumn of 1919.

An issue with the usage of the water was highlighted in 1925 when the Trent Motor Traction Company bus drivers were stopped from using the trough to top up their radiators at the Parish Council’s expense, the water being on a meter.

Many of the villagers can recall drinking from the fountain but the water supply was cut off many years ago. The trough has been filled with flowers as part of the village’s floral display.

The middle finial was damaged a few weeks ago (November 2019) but the council have agreed to repairing, although not with the distinctive spike top. The original plate on the roadside, with its double inaccuracy remains in place. Photograph below.