LOOKING BACK: Fountain of knowledge about the past

The fountain in its original location
The fountain in its original location

Outside the Fusciardi’s ice cream parlour is a drinking fountain, writes Harry Pope.

Most people pass by without noticing, assuming that it has always been there. Not so.

There is an inscription on the side, which states ‘this drinking fountain was donated in September 1865 by Mrs Elizabeth Curling (1790-1873) who lived in Kent Lodge, Seaside Road (now Trinity Trees).

The fountain was originally located in the middle of the road in Seaside, near the junction of Leaf Hall Road.

It was first moved to the corner with Langney Road, probably in the 1950s, before being restored and relocated here on December 21 2000.

But there is far more to the story than that.

The reason for erecting the fountain was temperance. Mrs Curling was a wealthy Eastbourne benefactress who saw the perils of the Demon Drink, providing the poorer residents with an alternative.

The cast iron fountain was built at the Britannia Works, of the Handyside Foundry in Derby.

The cost would have been in the region of £18, 0s, 0d.

The animal drinking trough at the base is covered up.

The original gas lamp is still in place though not working.

Initially, the fountain was erected outside the Marine Hotel, now pub, which was built in 1806 to accommodate visitors to the newly built Redoubt.

Beer was supplied by the now defunct Rason Brewery and I have failed to find any reference to this company.

Local historian Terry Colbran has kindly provided me with a copy of the photo, probably dated about 1890.

This was not just the site of the drinking fountain, water provided by the River Bourne, but also Speakers’ Corner, which was situated outside the hotel.

This was the first site of the drinking fountain, but the traffic was increasing greatly so it had to be moved from the middle of the road, which makes me doubt its removal “probably in the 1950s”.

The Langney Road site was more suitable, because of its closer proximity to the water source. This was also close to the original wash house, later to be an auction house, now defunct.

The drinking fountain became derelict over the years, and when Seahouses Square was improved, the site seemed ideal.

The fountain was restored to its former glory, but still without fresh water.

There are moves afoot to move it back to its second site on the corner of Langney Road, possibly even being restored to its original intention of providing sustenance to the thirsty.

Harry Pope is Eastbourne’s licensed sight-seeing guide, June – end September. Private winter walks are available for groups/clubs/societies. Contact www.harrythewalker.com or by calling Eastbourne 34107.

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