“Doulton Fountain, Glasgow

Doulton Fountain, Glasgow

Designer: Arthur Edward Pearce. Sculptors: John Broad, Herbert Ellis, Pearce himself, Frederick Pomeroy and William Silver Frith, and possibly student assistants (supervised by Frith). 1888. Terracotta on an iron frame. Glasgow Green, Glasgow.

This highly decorative five-tier fountain in French Renaissance style was designed to commemorate the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 1887, and became Doulton's main display piece for the 1888 International Exhibition in Kelvingrove Park, Glasgow. It now stands in front of the equally ornate People's Palace, which houses the city's social history collection (though the colourful building seen in the background from this angle is the Templeton Business Centre, designed by William Leiper and built in 1888-92 as a carpet factory). The fountain was extensively restored in 2003-5. At 46' high and 70' across at the base, it is thought to be the largest such fountain in the world.

Left: Whole fountain in its setting. Right: Closer view of lower-storey figures. [Click on images to enlarge them.]

It was an extremely popular work, much praised as "an alliance of the beautiful and the useful" (qtd. in McKenzie 169), partly no doubt because of its symbolic role as a celebration of empire. Below the crowning figure of the Queen” by John Broad are four kneeling maidens emptying pitchers, and beneath them are sentries representing Scottish, English and Irish regiments, along with a sailor representing the Royal Navy. Below these are four allegorical groups representing Canada (modelled” by Frith), South Africa (modelled” by Ellis), Australia (modelled by Pomeroy) and India (modelled by Broad). In the closer view above, a Black Watch Highlander can be seen among the servicemen, while India is visible on the right, and Canada on the left. India is represented by an armed figure with a turban, indicating its military history, and a female figure with accoutrements suggesting its arts and industries; Canada has a trapper with a moose's head, and a woman with objects such as a sheaf of wheat and a miner's pick, indicating agricultural and mineral resources. There is a beaver at the righthand corner by the trapper's foot.

There was great interest in the use of terracotta for such a big project. Its virtues are that it can be worked quickly and delicately, and is weather resistant. In our own times, the art critic Brian Sewell has written lyrically about it as "a material with weight and texture to it, comforting to the hand, reassuring to the eye in its variety of ruddy and russet colours," and a means of insight "into the sculptor's mind and eye." However, it does have a drawback. When the figure of Queen Victoria on the Doulton Fountain was hit by lightning in 1894, replacement was less straightforward than it would have been if a cast had been available.

Other Views and Related Material

Photographs by the author. [You may use these images without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the photographer and (2) link your document to this URL.]


McKenzie, Ray, with contributions by Gary Nisbet. Public Sculpture of Glasgow. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2002.

Sewell, Brian. "Earthy Delights to Stir the Senses." Evening Standard, 15 March 2002.

Created 16 October 2009

Last modified 30 January 2020