Assessment of Significance

The St Lawrence fountain was, in its former place, an unlisted structure.

It has substantial significance to the City as a reminder of a parish supporting the locality and its poorer citizens, as well as the City’s past as a residential area.

The fountain is a historically significant monument as an example of how the actions of the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association were followed, even imitated, by a religious institution in London. Set up in commemoration of a long history of benefactors, the St Lawrence Jewry fountain followed both contemporary moral and welfare concerns as well as a fashion for public sculpture. The interest of the church in such a project would have been no doubt informed by contemporary debate on temperance, and providing the poor with alternatives to readily-available cheap alcohol. These came at a time when many residential areas still relied on water from wells or rivers, via pumps.

The fountain’s figures are artistically significant as examples of respected artist, Joseph Durham, working in a small scale. The statue was completed with a month of the sculptor being elected as an associate to the royal Academy, demonstrating his growing reputation and peer reception.

Although the architect, John Robinson, is less well known, the form of the monument is interesting. Where as the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain Association advocated a wide array of designs for public fountains, relatively few were of a gothic style. The St Lawrence Jewry fountain’s form, whether understood as Italianate or Decorated, associated the monument with the wider ‘Christian’ language of the Gothic revival, outside of the relatively simple exterior of its parent church. The fountain also rivalled its Metropolitan contemporaries in size and ornate design, overshadowing examples such as a gothic canopied form designed by Clayton and Bell in Camden Town only five years before.

It is hard to determine exactly how directly the St Lawrence Jewry fountain influenced subsequent designs and the increasing number of large, and larger, Gothic fountains. It does, however, represent a turning point in water provision, as public and private benefactors recognised the potential of erecting, and dedicating, such utilitarian structures in the civic sphere for their own ends.