The West End Fountain Lat -51.684494 Lon -4.684494
Standing like a sentry guarding the entrance to New Road, almost unseen and unnoticed by the passing traffic, is the West End Fountain. This old piece of polished granite street furniture has seen people and traffic pass by for over a century, but how old is it and what was its purpose?
In the hot and dusty June of 1863 a letter appeared in The Llanelly Guardian newspaper addressed to The Editor from a person who wished to be known as a Thirsty Pilgrim. The author of this brief epistle was appealing to the governing body of the town, then known as the Board of Health, for a public water fountain to provide the supply of a draught of sparkling water. [a] It is not known if this letter was heeded or indeed if it applied to the above fountain but we know that this watering hole was already in situ by 1889 [b].
The West End Fountain – A correspondent suggests that something be done to keep dry the base of the new fountain, otherwise its would-be drinkers cannot approach without first donning sea-boots! The same gentleman adds: Are our Board of Health prepared to receive sealed tenders for the purchase of our elder, broken- hearted fountain, as I have heard a few football players say it would be a boon to a thirsty team on Stradey Park.
Llanelly Guardian 2 Sept 1886
The item known as the West End Fountain was not merely a source of drinking water for the parched traveller but it also served as a horse trough which was strategically placed at the foot of New Road, a road that has existed since about 1829 [c]. Until the early part of the 20th century the main mode of transport was the horse and it was probably from this trough that many a steed would 'fill up' before the slow gradient up New Road to the village of Furnace and on.
West End has been a busy thoroughfare for nearly two hundred years, it leads into Hall Street, so named after the first town hall that was built there. The street possessed a number of public houses, an early market place and a 'Smithy' was operated by Thomas & Philip Vaughan who were the blacksmiths there for over fifty years. [d]
The 1880 OS Plan of West End shows a Smithy sited near the junction of New Road (see attached plan).
The West End Fountain was also a sign post, for above its granite base and water basins, a cast-iron standard supported road signs to give the traveller directions to Carmarthen (A484) and Pontiets (B4389). There are indications that it may have been crowned with a gas light because it has two of the maintenance arms required for supporting ladder access, often seen on the old street lamp standards. Ideally this would have illuminated the sign post for the night traveller.
One can picture the scene of over a hundred and fifty years ago, of a newly shod horse leaving Vaughans' the Blacksmith Shop and drinking from the nearby water trough, preparing to draw its cart and head North on the long uphill haul to the village of Five Roads. The weary night traveler checking the directions to Carmarthen as he heads on foot to the Sandy Road Tollgate. Or even the young collier boy stopping to drink from its small tap and wash the coal dust from his throat as he makes his was home after a long shift underground in the nearby Caebad Colliery.
Over the years the water fountain has been moved at least once. Sometime in the past one adjacent house was demolished to allow New Road to sweep smoothly round as it entered West End, leaving the fountain stranded on an island. But not for long, once again it was relocated to the present day end- house of New Road, probably to accommodate modern day traffic of the 20th century. Parts of the marble basins have been vandalized, but before blaming the modern generation read the following article that appeared in the Llanelly Guardian of May1889...
Some time ago a very good and kind friend of Llanelly and its inhabitants gave the place a handsome drinking fountain, to be found at the junction of of New and Pembrey Roads. We don't exactly know who is responsible for the custody of the Fountain, but judging from appearances we are pretty safe in concluding that it is the Local Board of Health. Provision is made for man and beast; but the water has long since disappeared from the beast's department, and we are sorry the other morning to see a poor thirsty horse obliged to turn away disappointed. On the side intended for the use of human nature water still flows, but there is not the least fear of anybody using it as (except in the driest weather) the Fountain stands in a complete cordon of muck and filth, impassable to all save the dirty little brats who spend their time in scratching the polished granite, and adding to the filth that so lavishly abounds. Sometimes the beastly little things are actually to be seen sitting in the basins! This is the kind of thing that would never be tolerated for a single moment anywhere except at Llanelly, and we take the opportunity of mentioning to the responsible parties that the present state of things is insulting to the giver of the Fountain, and to the town, besides being an unmitigated public nuisance.[b]This vandalism was not the only bit of misfortune to befall this edifice because nine years later it was the victim of a Victorian traffic accident which was colourfully described in the South Wales Press of that year as...
Horse Versus Lamp-Post.
Shortly before two o'clock on Saturday afternoon a driver in the employ of Mr. Vivian, of the Murray Street Mews, was driving two horses attached to a waggonette along Hall Street. He was making in the direction of Pembrey Road when the near horse tried to turn into New Road. The driver pulled the reins to draw its head in the proper direction, but the animal being frisky, made for the lamp post above the fountain opposite the Stepney Estate Office and went against it with such force as to smash it completely. The animal was not injured.[e]
Mr Vivian was a well-known plumber and gas fitter who operated for many years from business premises in Park Street and Murray Street, Llanelli, [f]
Today, a careful examination of this piece of Victorian street furniture reveals that it has lost some of its features; its gas lamp standard along with one of the cast-iron support scrolls is missing, the human drinking basin at the rear of the fountain stand has been destroyed, the old road signs have been removed. However, the horse basin which can be seen at the front is intact. The fountain's age is not known but it has withstood the test of time while many of Llanelli's other street landmarks have long disappeared.
No plaque or plate can give us a clue as to who put it there but it should be looked after for future generations as landmark and a tribute to Llanelli's transport of the past.
Notes and Citations
We acknowledge the Staff at the Llanelli Reference Library for their assistance and permission to use photographs from the Local Collection.
[a] Llanelly County Guardian 6th June 1863.
[b] South Wales Press 23rd May1889.
[c] Old Llanelly by John Innes 1902 p53.
[d] Thomas Vaughan Blacksmith Vauxhall Hunt & Co's 1849 p84,
Thomas Vaughan Blacksmith West End 1872 Chalinders,
Thomas Vaughan Blacksmith West End Slater's 1858,
Philip Vaughan West End Kelly's 1907 p498.
[e] South Wales Press 15 Dec 1898.
[f] Llanelly Directory & Local Guide 1897 James Davies & Co.