Manual Ref* NFnrNOR042 Show image 47

Melly's Fountain - Guildhall

County Norfolk   District Council Norwich City Council 
Civil Parish or equivalent Norwich City Council  Town/Village* Norwich - City Hall 
Road Between Gaol and Guildhall Hills 
Precise Location East End of Guildhall 
OS Grid Ref TG229088  Postcode NR2 
Previous location(s)  
Setting On building  Access Public 
Artist/Maker Role Qualifier
Not known  Stonemason(s)   

Commissioned by

Charles P. Melly 

Design & Constrn period


Date of installing


Exact date of unveiling



Abstract Animal Architectural
Commercial Commemorative Composite
Free Functional Funerary
Heraldic Military Natural
Non-Commemorative Performance Portable
Religious Roadside, Wayside Sculptural
Temporary, Mobile Other  

Object Type

Building Clock Tower Architectural
Coat of Arms Cross Fountain
Landscape Marker Medallion
Mural Panel Readymade
Relief Shaft Sculpture
Statue Street Furniture War Memorial
Other Object Sub Type: Two panels with coats of arms, one fountain

Subject Type

Allegorical Mythological Pictorial
Figurative Non-figurative Portrait
Still-life Symbolic Other

Subject Sub Type

Bust Equestrian Full-length
Group Head Reclining
Seated Standing Torso
Part Material Dimension
Trough of drinking fountain  Polished granite  40 cms deep by 85 cms H, granite behind 54 cms W., 51 cms H 
Setting for fountain  Polished granite  40 cms deep by 85 cms H, granite behind 54 cms W., 51 cms H 
Setting for fountain  Stone  140 cms W x 170 cms H. 

Work is

Extant Not Sited Lost


Norwich City Council 

Listing status

Grade I Grade II* Grade II Don't Know Not Listed

Surface Condition

Corrosion, Deterioration Accretions
Bird Guano Abrasions, cracks, splits
Biological growth Spalling, crumbling
Metallic staining Previous treatments
Detail: The panels with shields are worn but the coats of arms on the right can be made out as those of the City. The drinking fountain is also badly worn.

Structural Condition

Armature exposed Broken or missing parts
Replaced parts Loose elements
Cracks, splits, breaks, holes Spalling, crumbling
Water collection Other
Detail: The twisted column to the left of the fountain has been lost, as has the right hand brass ring. The photograph of the fountain on Picture Norfolk (NP00011383, dated at the time of the fountain's installation) shows it intact with the spout framed by a lion's head.


Graffiti Structural damage Surface Damage

Overall condition

Good Fair Poor


No Known Risk At Risk Immediate
Inscriptions In centre: 1859/ PRESENTED BY. CHARLES P. MELLY Shield to left: C.M. (for Charles Melly) To right: S.R (Salve Regina - God save the Queen) 

Description (physical)

The decorative fountain has a mock-Gothic architectural frame and the red granite drinking trough is supported on a twisted all'antica or early Christian column. This is very much more elaborate than the simple granite fountains which Melly had provided for Liverpool, discussed below. It may have been designed by Robert Kerr, the architect responsible for the clock tower of 1850 

Description (iconographical)

The provision of a drinking fountain fits with the Victorian response to the discovery in 1854 by John Snow (1813-1858) that cholera was spread by contaminated drinking water, and with a philanthropical movement initiated by Charles Pierre Melly (1829 – 1888). Melly was born in in Tuebrook (a suburb of Liverpool), to a Swiss father from Geneva, who had gained English citizenship. Charles Melly became a cotton merchant in Liverpool & Manchester, an officer in the Childwall Rifles and a philanthropist. He was involved in planning Sefton Park, Liverpool, having persuaded Lord Derby to donate land. He founded the North East Mission; the first night school, in Beaufort Street; and the Liverpool Gymnasium, in Myrtle Street. Concerned for Liverpool’s poor, he provided free playgrounds for children and benches for the elderly, and, having seen the difficulties of the lamplighters, he introduced a system he had seen in Geneva, replacing ladders with long poles. In 1852, having been told of the dock workers’ and immigrants’ need for fresh drinking water - their only alternative being the public house - he proposed the provision of free drinking fountains, based on those in Geneva. Initially, he set up a number of taps near the docks, providing fresh water, but these proved so popular (on one occasion, in a 12 hour period, they were used by not less than 2336 people!) that they wore out in two years. In 1854, at the south end of Princes Dock, Melly set up the first red granite fountain, and by 1858 he had supplied Liverpool with 43 fountains, with water spouts including lions’, tigers’ and satyrs’ heads, and all at a cost of £10 each. Attached to dock walls, church walls, railway station buildings and bridges, and other places where they would be most useful for the poor. Melly’s fame spread, and a paper which he presented to the Liverpool meeting of the national Association for the Promotion of Social Science in 1858, outlining his work in the city, was taken up by Samuel Gurney MP (1813-1882) a nephew of the Quaker prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, MP for Penryn, 1857-65, and a founder of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough Association. Although Gurney lived in Surrey and at Regent's Park he was one of the members of the Norwich based Overend and Gurney Bank not to have been damaged by their crash in 1866, a connection which may have prompted Melly to have presented one of his drinking fountains to Norwich and may explain its prominent position at the east end of the Guildhall, still the City's town hall. The need for the fountain is a further indication of the decline of the city's once great textile business, which by the 1850s had failed to keep up with Manchester in the use of the power looms. This resulted in large-scale unemployment and unrest among the city’s weavers, compounded by the appalling quality of the water, noted in a report for the General Board of Health in 1851. The Wensum was 'thoroughly and irremediably' polluted with domestic and industrial waste, although piped water had become available following the establishment of a new water company in 1850 (see under NFnrNOR228). Following Melly's example Samuel Gurney set up London’s first fountain on the wall of St Sepulchre, Holburn in 1859. Melly's example and Snow's discovery of the link between contaminated water and cholera was to result in widespread commissions for fountains and water pumps, including in Norwich the Gurney obelisk of 1860 on Tombland (designed by John Bell) and that endowed by Sir John Boileau in 1869 for the Newmarket and Ipswich roads, see under Newmarket Road. 


Date taken:  30/3/2006
Date logged: 

Photographed by:
Sarah Cocke

On Site Inspection

Date:  18/4/2006

Inspected by:
Richard Cocke

Sources and References

Patrick Neill, ‘Charles Melly and his Drinking Fountains’, Liverpool History Society, Newsletter 20, Winter 2007-8, October 2007, accessed 12/03/2010; Wilson, R., 'The Textile Industry', in Rawcliffe, C. and Wilson, R. eds, Norwich since 1550, Hambledon and London, 2004 esp. 236-242 and Steven Cherry, ' Medical Care since 1750', idem 286; Cocke, S. and Hall, L., Norwich Bridges Past & Present, Norwich Society, 1994, 20-21; Philip Davies, Troughs and 11-13 and Drinking Fountains, London, 1989, 11-13 and 41; Philip Ward-Jacson, Public Sculpture of the City of London,, Liverpool, 2003, p. 145 


Date entered:  3/5/2006

Data inputter:
Richard Cocke