Statement of Special Interest
This elaborate and idiosyncratic fountain, forms the centrepiece to Fountain Gardens. It incorporates a wealth of decorative detail. The unusual addition of full-sized, accurately modelled walruses and the surrounding cast iron rocks, complete with barnacles, makes it a unique structure. Fountain Gardens are situated on the site of previous Gardens. These, the Love Street Gardens, had fallen into general disuse and the land was bought in 1866 by Thomas Coats of Ferguslie. He bought the gardens with the intention of altering and improving them and then handing them over for the community to use as a 'place of healthful recreation and resort'. Thomas Coats used the Glasgow landscape architect, James Niven, as designer and allowed him to do whatever he wished, with no thought to the expense. In the event, the gardens were laid out to a geometric pattern, with broad, leafy walks all of which led to the decorative fountain at the centre. The fountain is described in detail in The Builder of June 27th 1868.
Thomas Coats gave the gardens to Paisley Town Council in 1868, with a gift of £5000 for their upkeep. Other elaborate iron work, all by the same foundry, was incorporated into the park, including lamps, gates, railings, seats and drinking fountains, but the fountain is one of the few pieces to remain.
Scotland had a thriving, productive ironfounding industry in the latter half of the 19th century, exporting work to other countries, including Brazil, India and South Africa. The Sun iron foundry of George Smith and Co Ltd, Glasgow was founded in 1858 and was one of the most significant and productive. It closed in 1899 and large scale works from the foundry are uncommon. This is therefore a virtuoso piece, showing the scale and complexity of what could be achieved. Upgraded from B to A, 8/6/06.