Charing Cross Fountain

The development of the new town at Grangemouth took place over many decades but from an early date a large open space was left for public gatherings at the junction of the Station Brae, Zetland Place, Lumley Street and Bo’ness Road.  The numerous routes centred on this location gave rise to the name Charing Cross which became current in the early 1880s.  Whinstone sets were put in place in 1899 and Grangemouth Council decided that it was time to grace the square with a public monument.  However, it was July 1906 before a cast iron drinking fountain was installed, cast at the Grangemouth Iron Works for £13 6s 6d.  It had five bowls and taps with cups.  Alongside it, a horse trough catered for vehicular traffic but it was removed in 1909.  The diminutive scale of the fountain underwhelmed the populace but the promise of an iron canopy for it similar to the Gentleman Fountain in Falkirk appeased the press.  It was never installed.  Instead, following more extensive paving in 1912, a new drinking fountain was placed by Grangemouth Town Council on a refuge island in the centre of the road.  The new fountain was combined with a powerful electric light, considered essential for this busy junction.  Two small lamps on brackets below the main one were for use after 11.30pm when the large one was switched off.  There were basins on each of the four sides of the monument with lion-headed spouts on the tapering panels above.

The open space at Charing Cross was used as a gathering place for demonstrations, parades and Union meetings.  After the erection of the clock tower on the Commercial Bank it was also popular for New Year’s revels.  The square became the destination point for busses and together with the increased cars they made it difficult for people to access the fountain.

Illus: Charing Cross with the 1912 Water Fountain and Lamp.

After the First World War this location was favoured by a large proportion of the population as the setting for a memorial to the local servicemen and women who had died in the conflict.  However, the architect, John Burnett, pointed out the dangerous increase in traffic and advised that the quieter site at Zetland Park was far more appropriate.  Without road markings the traffic was confused about which side of the fountain to pass on and moves were made to remove it on the grounds of road safety and obstruction.  It was finally taken away in 1954 and a keep-left traffic bollard and Belisha beacon put in its place.  The bollard still confused drivers and the sterile wilderness created put paid to the New Year parties.

(NS 9272 8211)

G.B. Bailey, 2022