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The Andrews Pages Picture Gallery : Derbyshire
A selection of photographs, prints and postcards. Some have personal or family connections
Bonsall, the Water Fountains

"Here are several handsome drinking fountains" (1881)[1].

Bonsall had been rather poorly supplied with water but in 1870 the deficiency was taken in hand, a committee was formed and funds were raised by public subscription to install two water fountains. Mrs. Prince, of The Study, paid for the construction of the central fountain which was to be in memory of her late father Mr. Henry Forth of Didsbury. In January 1871 a ceremony took place at Dale End: "with great éclat, a foundation stone of a handsome drinking fountain, intended to supply Bonsall with water, being laid by Master Harry Prince, and heir to the estate". Plans had been drawn up by Mr Parkin of Idridgehay, a reservoir had been constructed and water was piped into the village. The fountain was to be built by Mr. Fox of Wirksworth and when it finished the stone structure was going to be eighteen feet high. Mr. Coates then laid a second stone[2], which was for another fountain at the Cross.

Mrs. Prince paid for this, too[3]; today it is rather dwarfed by the War Memorial that is next to it. When she died in 1900 it was said that "In 1870 she contributed £100 towards the water works which now give the chief supply to the village. Several fountains today give testimony to her benefits"[4]. What she spent in 1870 is equivalent to £11,981.51 today (2020), so she was extremely generous.

A Nottingham paper gave more details about the inscriptions on the two fountains. The following is on the one at Dale End: "Let him that is athirst come : and whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely". And on the second fountain near the Cross: "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst ; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life". As the journalist commented in 1872 "Many a weary pedestrian, after surmounting the steep hill into Bonsall on a hot summers day, will have cause to bless the fountains of these munificent donors"[3].

A third fountain in Upper Bonsall was erected by John Henry Twigg, Esq. (1819-79)[3], a brewer and licensed victualler of Amber House, Ashover whose two sisters lived in Bonsall. The Twiggs owned land in the village. From the description, Twigg's fountain must be the one at the corner of Pounder Lane (Town Head). A well is shown on Pounder Lane, near to Twigg's drinking fountain at Town Head, on the 1899 OS map.

The Fountain Inn, renamed after the fountain was installed, is on the left of the postcard above; its landlord was Colin Campbell Oliver in 1901[5]. Yeoman Street is the road in the centre and up on the hill is St. James' church. As Bemrose's Guide (1869) put it: "occupying a commanding position on a shelving rock - like the house of a Swiss poet, which looks out on a domain a monarch might be proud of"[6].

The Water Fountain opposite the church at the bottom of Ember Lane was not part of the original group. It is dedicated to the memory of Robert Clay of Nether Green House and was restored some years ago.

Although the original inscription is wearing, the plaque below repeats the wording:


Robert was singled out for a number of reasons as he was a person of some note in Bonsall in his lifetime. In his Will he left bequests to Bonsall charities he had supported, as well as the following: "To the Rector and Churchwardens of parish of Bonsall £170 upon trust to invest in the public funds of Great Britain... Interest dividends and annual income to purchase bread and/or clothing to be distributed on New Years Day to the poor and needy. Whilst John Broxup Coates is alive he is to distribute to those he selects."

Robert had been giving bread to the poor on New Year's Day since 1846. In the 1860s, for example, he was giving "an eightpenny loaf to 150 of the largest and poorest families" in the parish. J. B. Coates was still distributing this "dole" on his behalf in 1898.

The fountain shown is particularly interesting to the web mistress because of the dedication. Robert Clay is on her family tree and family lore has always believed that he had brought water into the village. He is the most likely person to have repaired the well at Nether Green, where he lived, in 1860 although unfortunately the surname of Robert the benefactor has disappeared. He was also involved with the restoration of St. James' Church in 1863[7].

A fourth fountain is at the north of the High Street junction with Abel Lane; the 1879 OS map shows a number of wells and a trough on Abel Lane - one of a number of troughs in Bonsall. A fifth fountain is at the junction of The Bank/Uppertown Lane and Moor Lane.

All these fountains are still in place although bowls/basins have been placed under the water spout of the last three above, added to mark the Millennium. The taps have gone from all the fountains, but on the Clay fountain we can see the drain below it, undoubtedly where the bucket would rest when it was being filled. Whilst the fountains provided a much needed source of water, one can only wonder what happened if the taps froze up in the winter.

Elsewhere on this web site:
Bonsall, Kelly's 1891 Directory
Pigot's 1828-9 Directory, with Matlock, Matlock Bath and Darley includes Bonsall names.
Pigot's 1831 Directory, with Matlock and Matlock Bath, includes Bonsall names.
Pigot's Directory, 1842, also with Matlock and Matlock Bath, includes Bonsall names.
Matlock Charities
Bonsall: Poems about the village

Our Genealogy
includes a photo of Robert Clay's memorial and an image of the family crest.

1. "Dale End, Bonsall". Published by A. P. Co., St. Mary Axe, London E.C., Artistic Series, No.2591. Chromotyped in Germany. Unused. Dated on front: Aug 4th 1905. © Ann Andrews collection.
2. Photograph of the Clay fountain © Andy Andrews.
Written, researched by and © Ann Andrews.
Intended for personal use only.


[1] "Kelly's Directory of Derbyshire" (1881), pub Kelly and Co.

[2] "Derbyshire Times", 21 January 1871. Laying the Foundation Stone of a Drinking Fountain at Bonsall. Mr. Coates was John Broxup Coates, a churchwarden. He is related to the web mistress and his wife was the niece of Robert Clay - see [7] below.

[3] "Nottingham Journal", 20 June 1872. An Autumn Ramble Through the Peak.

[4] "Derbyshire Times", 20 January 1900.

[5] 1901 census for England and Wales. Colin Oliver was farming as well, but by 1911 he was not at the Fountain Inn.

[6] "Bemroses'' Guide to Matlock, Bakewell, Chatsworth, Haddon Hall, &c" by John Hicklin, Third Edition, pub Bemrose and Sons, London (no date, but about 1869).

[7] All notes about Robert Clay are from documents and papers researched by Ann Andrews. I have been unable to find any references to either John Broxup Coates distributing the dole after 1898 or anyone else doing so after his death in 1908. Please contact me if you know what happened to this charity. Did it get renamed and become the St. Thomas' day charity? In 1932 there was a distribution of dole, but it was for the St. Thomas' charity - 87 loaves and 88 yards of flannel.

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Bonsall, St. James' Church

Nether Green