Victorian fountain, Caernarfon

Victorian fountain, Caernarfon

This fountain was installed in Y Maes (Castle Square) in 1868 as part of a major scheme to improve Caernarfon’s water and sanitation, after a cholera outbreak in winter 1866-67 which killed at least 70 people.

At the time of the outbreak, the town’s drinking water came from the river Cadnant. Water companies pumped it up to the streets, but many houses had no supply. The river wasn’t filtered and was polluted with drainage from farmland and the village of Bethel. Toilets and drains emptied into the lowest part of the river. “In summer and dry weather, it becomes a stinking ditch,” wrote Dr Seaton, an expert dispatched by the Privy Council office to report on the cholera outbreak.

He criticised the water supply and drainage, and the absence of toilets at many of the town’s overcrowded houses. Commonly the houses had windows on one side only, preventing proper ventilation.

Town mayor Sir Llewelyn Turner persuaded the council to borrow £10,000 for the new water system, which the Prince of Wales inaugurated in April 1868 by switching on the fountain. A jet of water rose c.30 metres from the fountain, increasing to almost 40 metres when chief engineer RJ Davids fully opened the valve, at the prince’s request. The crowd hastily retreated from the barriers where the spray descended!

The water system was designed to supply 160 litres (35 gallons) each day to 20,000 people – double the town’s population at the time. This was a generous allowance even by modern standards. In 2013, Dŵr Cymru customers used 145 litres per person per day on average.

The fountain was originally surrounded by a wide basin, as shown in the photo on our page about Y Maes.

The fountain is now in the aptly named Pool Street. A little to the north (where the multi-storey car park now stands) was the King’s Pool, a millpond formed by damming the Cadnant when the castle and walled town were built in the 13th century. The pool survived into the 19th century. The river is now channelled under the streets.

Postcode: LL55 2AE    View Location Map