The tiny, rarely seen Coventry landmark that says so much about the city’s past

Thousands pass it every day, blissfully unaware of its historical significance

They used to be dotted all around Coventry. Today, only a few cast iron drinking fountains are still in existence in the city.

One such landmark is located close to one of the busiest junctions outside the ring road. Everyday, tens of thousands of vehicles, pedestrians and joggers pass the drinking fountain on the northernmost fringes of War Memorial Park, where Warwick Road, Leamington Road and Kenilworth Road all meet.

Yet few, if any, stop to digest the majesty of a minute relic that actually tells us so much about the city. “It’s one of the oldest,” local historian Scott Duffin says. “There’s not many remaining around Coventry now.

“It is one of very few surviving Victorian drinking fountains in the city. The drinking fountain at Top Green in Styvechale is made of cast iron and is dated to around 1918.

“It is a survivor of the 19th and 20th Century movement to provide fresh, clean drinking water and is a reminder of the philanthropic donation by a civic leader. It also illustrates the facilities that were part of Top Green in the Edwardian period.

“The ornate design of the fountain shows its decorative nature and artistic interest, with the lion-head spout and the classical column design.” Embossed lettering on it says ‘A gift by Mrs Alick S Hill Mayoress of Coventry 1916-1918′.
Mrs Hill, was married to Alick Sargeant Hill, Mayor of Coventry in 1916 and 1917. Alick Hill was only 53 when he died just four years after leaving his Mayoral post. He was buried at nearby London Road Cemetery.
Public drinking fountains, fed by the mains, were an important part in improving public health at a time when water-borne diseases like cholera were endemic. Coventry was said to have suffered a cholera outbreak in 1849 that killed more than 200 people.
It was said at the time to be the only Victorian drinking fountain in the UK in full working order. Mary Maginnis, who was forbidden by her mother from using the age-old dispenser in the 1930s, performed the official opening ceremony.