The YORKE Fountain

by Annette Edwards.

The River Gwenfro, was the “town brook”  it ran  through the bottom part of the town, at one time it was a clean and pleasant stretch of water – but over the years with all the  industries, housing and lack of sanitation it had become a dangerous and stinking place. Even though sewers were laid down the brook continued to be a source of disease.

As early as 1874 there were plans to cover it, but it wasn`t until the summer of 1881 that this happened. Many affluent people in the town had offered to pay for drinking fountains to be erected, and one of these was sited at the end of the newly laid Brook Street.

Brook Street, Wrexham 1817

2nd May 1874

THE PROPOSAL TO COVER THE TOWN BROOK. The Surveyor submitted a plan showing the proposed culvert along Brook-street from Pentrefelin bridge to Ruabon Road bridge. He had kept in view the greatest strength combined with economy of material, work, etc He estimated the cost of construction, including excavation and alteration of the roadway along the top at £1,450. The covering of the brook would give a space equal to about 1000 yards. The average width of the roadway would be about 70 feet.  However, the space would not the sufficient to accommodate half the shows that attended the fair. Alderman Rowland was of opinion that if the project were carried out, it would greatly improve the health of the neighbourhood. He thought the space could be utilised for a pig market. If they had the Smithfield in the Beast Market the pleasure fair would have to be held in some other part of the town, and at such a time the space in Brook-street would be available.

The works had  still not been done 4 years later.

30th November 1878

PUBLIC HEALTH ACT. 1875. NOTICE IS HEREBY GIVEN that it is intended by the .Mayor Aldermen and Burgesses of the Borough of Wrexham acting by the Council to  make and construct a culvert or culverts along the River Gwenfro for the passage of the  stream from  the bridge in Bridge- street usually called the Ruabon Bridge including the removal or alteration of the Bridge commonly called Pentrefelin Bridge. To make and construct a street highway along the upper surface of such culvert and upon the site of the present streets called Brook-street and Brookside so as to convert the same into one uniform road.

24th April 1880

TOWN BROOK  Another proof, if proof were needed, of the great necessity for covering in  the town brook was afforded on Monday Two little girls were playing by the brookside, when one of them, leaning over the wall by the Townhill bridge, suddenly overbalanced herself and would have been instantly precipitated into the water had not her little playmate actually kept her up by holding on to one of her feet, as she hung head downwards, until assistance was procured and the child rescued from her perilous position  There has been, and still is, a great outcry about  “the rates and increased taxation “ but we fancy there  are few grumbling ratepayers but would be glad to see a dangerous open stream, in the vicinity  of a large school, safely covered in and made secure.

It was 7 years from the first plans for Brook Street to when they were actually carried out.

26th February 1881

DRINKING FOUNTAINS. The Town Clerk read a letter he had received from Mrs Conyers Morrell, Grosvenor road, asking whether the council had taken any further steps to decide upon a suitable site for a drinking fountain, as she was desirous of having one erected with the funds at her disposal. He (Ald. Strachan) had suggested a site on the wide footpath opposite the Town Clerk’s office where a fountain would be a decided ornament. Ald. Williams said some twelve months or two years ago a similar application was received from Squire Yorke, who was a near neighbour and had the interest of the town at heart. He thought therefore Mr Yorke should not be slighted by Mrs Morrell’s offer being accepted first.. The Ex-mayor said the offer from Mr Yorke was made some years ago, and Church-street was suggested as a site . Mr Alderman J. Williams subsequently repeated that he must express his dissatisfaction at Mrs Morrell being allowed to put up a drinking fountain, and no notice being taken of the application made on the part of Squire Yorke. He thought such a course was not treating Mr Yorke in the manner in which they should treat a gentleman who was known to take so much interest in the welfare and progress of the town, and he therefore begged to propose that the Town Clerk write to Mr Yorke, reminding him of his previous kind offer, and asking I him to renew the same. Alderman Strachan seconded the resolution, observing that a good site for the fountain would be in the vicinity of the new patent lamp on the bridge at the bottom of Town Hill, when the town brook was covered in. The resolution was ultimately agreed to.

2nd April 1881

DRINKING FOUNTAINS.

A letter was read from Mrs Conyers Morell in reference to the proposed drinking fountains, and also a letter from the Secretary of the Water Works Company, asking who would be responsible for the fountains and fittings in the event of the Company granting a free supply of water. Alderman Williams moved that the Council undertake to look after the fittings of the fountain and to see that there was no waste of water.  The Town Clerk said he had written to Mr Yorke with respect to his offer of a fountain made some time ago. Mr Yorke had very kindly called upon him and said he should be glad to give a fountain as his own separate gift whenever a suitable site was ready for it. The Town Clerk added that the site suggested for this fountain was some where in Brook-street when the new road was carried out.

31st December 1881

THE PROPOSED LAMP AND DRINKING FOUNTAIN IN BROOK-STREET.

The Borough Surveyor said he was asked at the last meeting to get some additional information as to the cost of an ornamental lamp and drinking fountain for Brook-street.. He had also prepared two sketches of lamp and fountain combined. Mr Alderman Williams suggested that, as Mr Yorke, of Erddig, had offered some time since to present a drinking fountain to the town, they should ascertain Mr Yorke’s feelings in the matter, before they came to any resolution on the subject.  The Town Clerk be requested to communicate with Mr Yorke, stating that the Corporation had now covered over the brook, and are in a position to erect there a fountain and lamp-post combined. Councillor J. M. Jones said it might be mentioned in the letter to Mr Yorke that they had designs for a lamp and fountain combined, and that if he (Mr Yorke) could see his way to meet the Council they might carry out the two objects together.

21st January 1882

MISCELLANEOUS MATTERS.

The Town Clerk referred to various correspondence which bad taken place since the last General Purposes Committee, The Borough Surveyor said only two members of the Lighting Committee had attended.  As requested, he had written to Mr Yorke, of Erddig, after the last Council, stating that the Corporation had under their consideration the erection of a lamp pillar in Brook-street, and designs had been submitted showing a combined lamp pillar and fountain, which would be at once ornamental and useful adding that he had been directed to ask him (Mr Yorke) whether a site near the Horns Inn would be a site that would meet with his approval for the drinking fountain and dog trough which he had kindly offered to present to the town.  Mr Yorke had since called upon him (the Town Clerk) to express the hope that, in the event of the lamp being put up in Brook-street, the Council would avail themselves of a peculiar kind of light, such as Bray’s, or lights similar to those he had seen in Pall Mall, London, and in some other parts of the Metropolis.  George Bray was a well known gas light manufacturer based in Leeds.

By May that year the Lamp and Fountain had been erected and it soon became a meeting point for  various organisations, especially the temperance movements  of the town. Unfortunately it was often used for other purposes than it was designed for.

20th May 1882

BLUE RIBBON ARMY.

On Tuesday evening the Blue Ribbon Army had, adopting a military phrase, a grand field evening.” At seven o’clock they met at the Fountain in Brook-street, and after a few songs had been sung, and a number of short addresses had been delivered, the members moved in procession singing as they went, to the Temperance Hall, where a large and successful meeting was held. At the close 44 persons signed the pledge and donned the blue ribbon. We are informed that the army is 500 strong. The next meeting will be held on Monday in Thornly Square, Pentrefelin.

27th May 1882

THE FOUNTAIN IN BROOK STREET.

Sergeant  Jones, accompanied by one of the police force, has intimated to the different elementary schools of Wrexham, and to the public of the Borough generally that anyone found abusing the new Fountain, recently placed in Brook-street, or using it for any other purposes than as a public drinking fountain will be brought before the magistrates, and fined as the law directs.

9th September 1882

THE SUNDAY CLOSING ACT. GOSPEL TEMPERANCE DEMONSTRATION

On Sunday afternoon, an open-air meeting was  held in Argyle Street under the auspices of  the  Ribbon Army, in honour of its being the first Sunday of the Welsh Sunday Closing Act coming into operation in Wrexham.

On Tuesday evening, under the auspices of the Blue Ribbon Army, a crowded and enthusiastic meeting was held in the Temperance Hall. A procession was formed at the Fountain, and headed by the Drum and Fife Band, marched to the Hall, where the chair was taken by Rev J. H. Hughes, who gave a short and pithy address.

By 1883 the fountain was becoming a problem. It was wasting water  because  children were using it as  a play area.

1st September 1883

THE FOUNTAIN IN BRIDGE STREET.

A letter was read from the secretary to the Wrexham Waterworks complaining of the waste of water at the Yorke Fountain in Bridge-street, and threatening to stop the supply unless the waste was prevented. It was explained that the waste was occasioned by mischievous children playing in the fountain basin, and it was resolved to call the attention of the chief constable to the matter.

13th June 1884

WREXHAM’S WANTS AND IMPROVEMENTS.

SIR,-It is a long time now since I have troubled you with a letter on the weals and woes of the great borough of Wrexham. A few years ago a great noise and stir was made about having water fountains in our streets. This aroused our town councilmen into enthusiasm over the convenience, glory, and renown that was to be in Wrexham of having two grand fountains. If the money given by the donors had been properly disposed of, we might have had two substantial and ornamental fountains always in working order, and a credit to the town, without spending but a few pounds of the rates on them. Now what is to be done is to take both away and get two useful fountains in their stead. What then is the matter with them? The one in Brookside is the greatest public nuisance in the town. Go past when you will, the only use made of it is by boys splashing one another with dirty water from the basin below. Sometimes you will see a few innocent boys trying to reach the dangled appendages with the idea of getting a drink, but by the time they get hold of it another boy will have possession of another. Then starts the game of knocking one against the other and against the lamp post; other boys join, and the mess made with the splashing of the water deters any decent person from coming near.

It was quite common for people to submit articles to the newspapers, usually of a sarcastic nature.

12th July 1884

NOTES AND QUERIES. TOWN AND  COUNTRY.

What an utter absurdity it is to talk about building baths, as though the people really wanted them. As long as the fountain in Brook-street is standing and well supplied with water it is all that is necessary. It is really delightful to see the innocent juveniles of Brook-street and its courts, paddling in the trough and splashing one another in their glee. All that is wanted is a few loads of sand mixed with some pebbles to make that spot a charming seaside nook. Then look at the saving in expense. Baths will no doubt be built when the eternal committee conclude its everlasting sittings. Do wake them up Mr Alderman Bury. The fountain is only capable of accommodating little people, and many people of larger size would gladly avail themselves of the baths. You’ll do your best, I know, but do it early.  ALFRED QUIZ.

The fountain was also the scene of many accidents.

12th July 1884

SERIOUS TRAP ACCIDENT.

About noon on Monday a phaeton belonging to Dr. Ed. Williams, Holt-street, was proceeding down Town Hill when it was overtaken and ran into by a trap driven by Mr Everett, excise officer, whose pony becoming restive whilst passing Wombwell’s caravans (which were coming into town at the time) eventually bolted down Town Hill. Dr. Williams’ carriage, on being struck by the trap, subsequently came in collision with a large trolley standing opposite Mr Viggars‘ shop, and eventually came to grief against the Yorke Fountain in Brook Side, where the phaeton was overturned, the coachman and Mr Gerrard, who where the only occupants, being thrown violently to the ground. The coachman was comparatively uninjured, but Mr Gerrard was rendered insensible and sustained serious injuries, which, however, we are glad to learn are not likely to be of a permanent character.

18th October 1884

TRAP ACCIDENT —On Saturday evening a serious trap accident occurred in Bridge-street. A stage cart containing about ten persons was being driven by its owner, Mr Isaac Clarke, Rhos, down Penybryn, and on passing the brow of the hill the passengers appear to have sat back to relieve the horse from part of the weight whilst descending the hill into Bridge-street. In doing so the shafts broke, the passengers were precipitated to the ground, and the horse taking fright dashed off furiously down Bridge-street, dragging the over- turned cart with it. When opposite the grocery establishment of Messrs Bertram and Son the animal rushed on to the pavement, and part of the cart came in contact with the plateglass window of the shop, smashing the window sash and knocking the pane out of its place, but, strange to say, without breaking or even scratching the glass. The horse again dashed up towards the Brook-street fountain, where the Salvation Armv was holding a service, and but for the fact that the cart caught the iron palisading in front of Mr E. Lloyd’s, opposite Horns Inn, further damage would probably have been done. However, the runaway was there brought to a stand, but until several persons had had narrow escapes. The cart was smashed to pieces, and the horse sustained slight injuries.

26th September 1885

DRUNKENNESS. John Edwards, labourer, Borras, was summoned by P.C. Lee for having been drunk whilst in charge of a horse and cart in Chapel-street, on the night of the 14th. The officer said the defendant was apparently asleep in the vehicle, and narrowly escaped coming into collision with the fountain in Brook-street.—Fined 10s 6d and costs.

17th October 1885

THE BROOK STREET FOUNTAIN.

Mr John Prichard called the attention of the Committee to the condition of the fountain in Brook-street. He said the water in the basin provided for cattle was stagnant and most offensive, whilst it seemed to be used most largely by boys who splashed each other and the passers-by. The Surveyor said the members of the rising generation had used the fountain for splashing very largely, and he had himself sent children away from it. Mr Baugh said it was the object of Mr Yorke, who gave the fountain, that water should be provided for cattle and dogs, and he would therefore move that the water be turned off from the fountain, but that the dog troughs should be kept filled. Mr Prichard seconded. Mr Murless said if the police would take the matter up and summon a few of the offenders, the nuisance would soon stop.

24th October 1885

OUR LOCAL SALVATIONISTS LIKELY TO GET IN TROUBLE.

They are in the habit of holding open air meetings almost nightly at the Brook-street fountain for the benefit of that neighbourhood. It is possible to have too much of a good thing. The inhabitants of that locality are getting tired of these constant visits, The other night a gentleman had his wife ill, and as the Salvationists were only a few yards from his house he asked  them to move, which they declined to do. The police were sent for, and the leaders were remonstrated with, and then they tardily complied with the request.

WREXHAM TOWN COUNCIL

It will not have escaped the attention of our temperance friends, that frosty weather is not conducive to the maintenance of the supply of water to exposed fountains.  The Surveyor, in reply to the Mayor, said the usual custom was to turn on the water in the fountains about March. The Mayor, That is the time that people begin to get thirsty, I suppose?

The Surveyor , Presumably so, sir. The Mayor thought it would be advisable to turn it on sooner than March. The Mayor asked if the water was to be turned on in the fountain in Brook-street. Mr W. R. Evans said at present that fountain was a recreation ground for the children, who played in it. It was decided to turn the water on in the King Street fountain, but not in the one in Brook-street.

7th May 1887

A SALVATION ARMY CAPTAIN FINED. REFUSING TO PAY THIS PENALTY

George Moore, Captain of the Wrexham Corps of the Salvation Army, was summoned for refusing to move on when requested by the police Dr. Evans, Penybryn, wanted them to move the Salvationists from the Brook- street fountain.  Mr Lloyd, the whitesmith, and a relative of the landlord of the Horns were ill. . Mr Williams, The Horns, said on the night in question his mother-in-law was very ill, having been confined to her bed for eight weeks. The sound went from the street into the top rooms, and was more noticed there than in the street They did not take any notice, and did not go before their usual time. Supt. Wilde, D.C.C., said the case was brought forward because the Salvationists had been asked by Dr. Evans and others to go away. Mr Councillor W. Pierce said Dr. Evans called in at his shop, and said it was a great shame to make such a noise annoying a poor lady that was ill. They were holding an open air meeting at the fountain. The meeting went on all right until a quarter to eight, when the police called the Captain out.

5th February 1887

THE PUBLIC FOUNTAINS. SIR,—I have been reading the discussion on our sealed fountains, in the Town Council, and cannot think it creditable to us as a rising and ambitious town. A speaker at the Public Hall some years ago, when new railway lines were proposed, said Wrexham was what Americans call, a “one-horse town.” It may now be called a one-fountain town, and that one is considered by one member of the Council, a nuisance. Passing by the still silent public fountain yesterday, I could not help moralizing over it, converted to the ignoble use of a circular dustbin, or place for rubbish to be shot. Now Simon’s intended spring of pure water was there, and I as a passer by was thirsty. There was no difficulty in sitting on the “well” which was destitute of water. The appeal of give me to drink would have been in vain. It was about, the sixth hour, and a tall iron column, with faculties for giving two of the choicest and most abundant blessings of Providence, light and water. Above for the eye, and below for the throat and stomach, rose in a wide open space, surrounded by houses, public, private, and comparatively poor. There was a brilliant light shining above, that must cost the town no small sum per week, there was no water beneath, though it would cost the town literally nothing. Under these circumstances the Council determines the fountain shall continue dry. The omission is not creditable, but the reason given is worse, as it implies that those town officials in blue, whose duty is to keep order, and who have usually little else to do, cannot keep an eye to the fountains, and by one or two summonses take care that they are not abused or made an eyesore. We can flush our lavatories and water our streets, but we cannot bear to see a stream of pure water flowing to quench the thirst of the wayfaring man. On Sunday, every house for the entertainment of man or beast is shut by law, and so, at least the Council determines, shall continue the Brook-street fountain.  Now, so far, sir. in my opinion, are we from doing the right thing in this matter, that we ought to have more and not fewer of these handmaidens to temperance and cleanliness. Take the Beast Market and its neighbourhood, the enclosed cattle market. Would the manners or morals of the thousands who come to the fairs and shows he deteriorated or improved by a convenient fountain there ? Would the drivers and dealers at the cattle market be worse or better for a supply of what constitutes four-fifths of the human body, and may be termed living water ? I am, A THIRSTY SOUL

1st October 1887

A PROPER PROSECUTION.

Robert Duncan, circus proprietor, was summoned by Mr David Higgles, sanitary inspector, for having washed six horses at the Fountain in Brook Street on Tuesday morning. Mr Higgins explained that the defendant, who did not appear, had acted under a misapprehension, and had forwarded him half a guinea to defray the costs of the proceedings. —The Magistrates fined defendant 3s 6d and costs, making 10s 6d in all.

23rd August 1890

AN AWKWARD ACCIDENT.-On Wednesday evening a little girl had a narrow escape from being drowned in the trough of the fountain in Bridge street. It seems that it was full of water, and the little one was anxious to obtain a drink. Being unable to reach the tap, she climbed on to the edge, and while trying to fill the cup she fell head-first in the water. The  incident was at first treated lightly, but it soon appeared that the girl was in danger of suffocation, and Mr Hugh Rowlands, chemist, Bridge-street, rushed to her, and rescued her, and brought her round.

6th September 1890

NEW BUSINESS PREMISES.—The contract for the erection of the new shop and warehouse, adjoining the fountain in Bridge-street, for Mr W. J. Williams, has been let to Mr H. A. Jones, builder, Poplar-road. The architect is Mr M. J. Gummow.

27th September 1890

A ROUGH PATIENT.—On Saturday night, a man who gave no name fell violently against one of the pillars supporting the fountain in Bridge-street. He had a very nasty contused wound on the fore head, and was taken into the shop of Mr Hugh Rowlands, chemist, and it was only with considerable difficulty that the wound could be dressed, as the man was  very quarrelsome, and wanted to fight.

4th April 1891

THE SALVATION ARMY. On Good Friday, a four days’ campaign was commenced in connection with the Wrexham Corps of the Salvation Army, Captain Shipway led the attack. The proceedings commenced with a holiness meeting at 11 o’clock, and an open-air meeting at the Fountain at two o’clock. At 4.30 there was” a big ham and jam” tea , which was largely attended.

9th April 1892

BOROUGH MAGISTRATES’ COURT. FRIDAY, APRIL 1ST. Before John Bury, Esq. DRUNKENNESS. William Rogers, laborer, was in custody charged by P.C. Reese, with having been drunk and incapable near the Fountain in Brook-street, on the previous day. The prisoner said he had a cold and took some rum and coffee for it. Mr Bury: I am afraid you took more rum than coffee. Fined Is and costs or seven days.

Apart from the fountain the new public conveniences in Brook Street were causing problems.

13th April 1895

WREXHAM STREETS May I ask your permission to call attention in the columns of your valuable paper to what I consider the deliberate defacement of one of our public streets by the Town Council. I refer to the urinal in Brook-street. What motive could have suggested such disfigurement I am at a loss to understand. If such a convenience was required, surely the railway company might have been approached with a view to obtain one of the arches of the bridge, which, with very little expense, could have been adapted for the purpose without the unnecessary obtrusion obtained by such an erection as that referred to. A short time ago a crusade against the country carriers was initiated by the police authorities, backed by the Town Council. They were moved from Abbot- Street  and ordered to set down and time up passengers at the Fountain, and now this huge and  unsightly obstruction is placed in their way, preventing them (without obstructing the thoroughfare ) from complying with the orders of the police but, perhaps this is the first of several such intended erections.

The fountain was still used as a meeting place  after many years.

Urinal just visable to the right

1st June 1895

WELSH BAPTIST SUNDAY SCHOOL  UNION. MEETINGS AT WREXHAM.

On Monday, the annual meetings of the Welsh Baptist Sunday School Union of Dyffryn Maelor were held in the Public Hall. The day was beautifully fine, and it was estimated that between 3,000 and and 4,000 children and adults took part in the meetings.. The members assembled early in the morning near the Fountain in Brook-street.  The large procession then moved by way of Vicarage Hill into High-street, and thence to the Beast Market, where two hymns were sung.

By 1900 the fountain was becoming an eyesore and at the end of the year it was agreed that it could be removed.

2nd August 1899

GEORGE WISE AT WREXHAM. WARM RECEPTION. Last evening Mr. George Wise, of Liverpool, was announced to deliver, at Wrexham, the first of a series of four anti-Ritualistic lectures. He began his address in BrookStreet, near the fountain, but was moved on by the police for causing an obstruction. Accompanied by his supporters, and followed by an exceedingly large crowd, he then went on to Cae Shack.The proceedings throughout were of a most disorderly character, and the lecturer could make no headway with his speech at all. He was frequently interrupted, and numerous questions were put. Mr. Wise characterised the opposition as scandalous, and stated that he would make himself heard, if he had to come there every night for a month. Lively scenes are anticipated at the meeting this evening.

9th June 1900

TREES AND OPEN AIR CONCERTS FOR WREXHAM.

Thanks for your article in which you say— Some day we hope to see the few wide streets in our borough not only lighted by brilliant arc lamps during the night, but looking fresh with green trees during the day. One street in particular that would lend itself to such treatment is Brook-street. I cannot help wondering whether the time has not come when some of the best citizens of what we love to call the good old town of Wrexham,’ should baud themselves together for some such purpose. Much might be done at a small cost in beautifying the streets of the town. A few trees, seats, and small grass plots in Brook- street, in place of the artistic erection to be found there now, with the fountain so placed as to be a `thing of beauty,’ instead of an eye-sore, would work a transformation. The street is wide and well suited for such an improvement.”. I shall be glad to hear from anyone interested in this project.-Yours, &a. J. STANFORD. 26, Hope-street.

1st December 1900

A LETTER WAS READ FROM MR YORKE consenting to the removal of the fountain and cattle drinking trough in Brook-street.  Alderman Benson said that since the meeting of the Committee it had been thought advisable that the minute as to the removal of the fountain in Brook-street should be referred back, and he moved that. The removal would be an expensive job, and it was thought they might manage by taking the two front pillars away. Councillor Chadwick asked if it was a fact that there was six feet of concrete under the pillars. The surveyor said there was six feet of concrete under the iron structure. Councillor Taylor said the engineer was waiting for the work to be done, and the fountain was a public nuisance where it was.

When the fountain was actually removed isn`t sure, but it had only been in place since 1882, a short period of 18 years.  Perhaps if it had been erected in a more “genteel” part of the town it may  have survived.

Researched by Annette Edwards. May 2020.