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Tombland Obelisk Drinking Fountain

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Many of us today pass Tombland in a car, bus or bicycle barely noticing the broad range of architecture that makes up this historic area. Hidden amongst the street furniture near to St. Ethelbert’s Gate, an obelisk is found denoting a Victorian example of technological progress against the scourge of cholera.

Many of us today pass Tombland in a car, bus or bicycle barely noticing the broad range of architecture that makes up this historic area. Hidden amongst the street furniture near to St. Ethelbert’s Gate, an obelisk is found denoting a Victorian example of technological progress against the scourge of cholera. As proof, a plaque on the obelisk proclaims: ‘Between 1700 and 1850 machinery used to raise and store water for the higher parts of the city stood on this site. To commemorate this in 1860 a drinking fountain was erected by John Henry Gurney.’

Recent connections between contaminated water leading to cholera prompted Victorian energies to encourage clean water and good sewerage. Local philanthropy ensured that monies were given to this end. The Gurneys were typical in marking technological progress through commemoration in building visible monuments.

John Henry Gurney (1819 – 1890), was the only son of Joseph John Gurney of Earlham Hall, and joined the family’s banking business at the age of seventeen. He was M.P. for Kings Lynn from 1854 – 65 and was a keen ornithologist, publishing many notes and articles on the subject. The drinking fountain being available to all citizens of Norwich marks a fitting memorial to local Victorian philanthropy.

Sources: Sculpture for Norwich