We’ve all seen it but what do we know about the Fountain in Caedraw?
The fountain was commissioned in 1906 to mark the granting of the charter for Merthyr’s Incorporation as a County Borough. The fountain was a gift of Sir William Thomas Lewis, the Merthyr-born coal magnate and philanthropist, as a tribute to Robert and Lucy Thomas, his wife’s grandparents.
Lucy Thomas (1781-1847), was one of the most remarkable people in the South Wales coalfield. She is considered to be the ‘Mother of the Welsh steam coal trade’. It was the coal from the Waun Wyllt Colliery at Troedyrhiw opened by her husband Robert in 1824 that helped to establish the reputation of Welsh coal on the London market.
The fountain, designed by W Macfarlane & Co, and manufactured at the Saracen Foundry, Possilpark, Glasgow was an elaborate canopied drinking fountain, 18ft. by 4ft. The open filigree canopy was supported by eight columns with griffin terminals which were positioned over capitals with foliage frieze above square bases. The highly decorated cusped arches were trimmed with rope mouldings. Cartouches contained within each lunette offered shields for memorial: a miner wielding a pick axe; a working miner; the coat of arms of St. Tydfil; and a dedication shield. Doves and flowers offered decorative relief on the circular, ribbed dome. The internal capitals contained flowers, and lion mascarons were placed on internal lunettes. The cast iron structure was surmounted by a heroic classical figure of Samson inscribed Strength.
Under the canopy stood the font. A circular shaft, ornamented with water lilies, rested on a wide base with canted corners. Four lion jambs supported four highly decorated quatrefoil basins. Rising from the centre was a pyramid shaped stanchion decorated with swan and bird decoration. A kylix-shaped lamp terminal with four consoles originally offered drinking cups suspended by chains.
The inscription on the dedication shield read:
Erected by Sir William T. Lewis and William Thomas Rees of Aberdare and presented to their native town in commemoration of Robert and Lucy Thomas of Waunwyltt in this parish, the pioneers in 1828 of the South Wales steam coal trade
The fountain was originally sited on a raised plinth near the site of the present-day Caedraw roundabout. It remained there until 1966 when it was moved due to the widening of the road, and the canopy was re-sited in front of St Tydfil’s Church, on the site of the current car-park. By this time the original drinking troughs had been removed and the canopy needed restoration, but the whereabouts of the original drinking fountain and five of the eight shields is unknown.
In 1988 it was designated a Grade II listed monument, and in 1993 as a result of a refurbishment programme, the fountain was moved to its present position immediately south of St. Tydfil’s Church. In 1995 Merthyr Council awarded the project to restore the fountain to Acorn Restorations Ltd and the re-sited and refurbished fountain was officially opened in July 1996.