Today's Object of the Week is a 160-year-old drinking fountain - and 'drinking' is the reason it was built.

An ancient fountain which stands in a Darlington park owes its origins to the temperance movement, which believed in abstinence from alcoholic drink.

The inaugural meeting of the Darlington branch of the Total Abstinence Society was held above a watchmaker's shop on High Row in August 1835 and John Fothergill, a local doctor was elected its first president - a position he held for 23 years until his death.

Read more: The incredible story behind the ship left abandoned on the banks of the River Wear

Dr Fothergill came from an eminent family of Wensleydale Quaker medicine men. He was born at Semerwater, near Bainbridge, in 1785 and came to Darlington in about 1825.

He was passionately against American slavery, but abstention from alcohol was his favourite cause.

In those days, though, it was an unpopular cause - the brewing industry was very powerful, the medical profession believed drink to be an effective treatment and the temperance movement itself was full of factions.

Yet it caught on. In Darlington alone there was the Temperance Choral Union, the Temperance Debating Society, the Women's Temperance Association and the Juvenile Temperance Society. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the movement opened an institution and a hall, still standing, in Gladstone Street.

President Fothergill was much admired for his persistent battling, and when he died it was agreed that a water fountain should be erected in his memory - especially as he frequently prescribed a long drink of cold, fresh water for his patients.

In 1860, the society asked the Board of Health for permission to build a fountain in Prospect Place - but permission was denied on the grounds that it would be a traffic hazard.

The society held a competition to design a fountain. The top prize was two guineas, and it was scooped by a 17-year-old called Septimus Hird.

Sadly, poor Septimus was soon dead. On July 1, 1861, he drowned while bathing in the sea at Redcar. A large obelisk was raised over his resting place in West Cemetery.

Septimus' boss, John Ross, modified the fountain and it was ready for opening on June 10, 1862.

Led by Dr Fothergill's successor as president, William Thompson, and the Darlington Sax Horn Band, the abstainers paraded from the Mechanics Institute, in Skinnergate, along Blackwellgate and High Row and up Bondgate to the fountain.

The Northern Echo: A plaque on the fountain, not much worn, explaining its originA plaque on the fountain, not much worn, explaining its origin

There Mr Thompson, whose bankruptcy in the late 1870s allowed Darlington to acquire a vast chunk of South Park very cheaply, ceremonially drank the first glass of water from the fountain.

The ceremony was held in a deluge - in fact, it was so wet that everyone had to come back the following day to have their picture taken when there was still a huge puddle in front of the fountain.

The Northern Echo: The opening of the Fothergill Fountain in Bondgate in 1862. Opening day was June 10, but because it was so grey and wet, the picture was taken on June 11The opening of the Fothergill Fountain in Bondgate in 1862. Opening day was June 10, but because it was so grey and wet, the picture was taken on June 11

There were many speeches praising temperance, but perhaps not everybody agreed with the sentiments.

A report of the opening in the Darlington and Stockton Times noted the condition of painter Jack Watson, who was causing "some slight annoyance" in the crown.

"He was 'three sheets in the wind', and seemed to delight in interrupting the speakers, by a sort of running commentary upon their remarks, never, however, in any degree coinciding, but with a heavy hiccup venting his dissatisfaction with the site, the character of the monument, with the temperance fraternity generally, and apparently nobody in particular," reported the newspaper.

The fountain, however, proved a nuisance as it spewed out water, leading to a raised walkway being built across Bondgate so people didn't sink ankle-deep in mud

In 1875, the fountain was moved out of the way to South Park with Mr Ross - Septimus' boss - paying for the alterations.

The Northern Echo: The fountain in its present position in South ParkThe fountain in its present position in South Park

Initially, it stood on the south-west corner of the terrace in the shadow of the giant sequoia trees. However, in 1926 when the Parkside entrance was built, it was moved to beside the aviaries.

In recent years it was moved back to its initial position by the Parkside entrance, as part of a £4m refurbishment of South Park.

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