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Celebrating the Walter Hill Fountain – Brisbane Botanic Gardens


Well-preserved and prominently positioned

If you asked Brisbane residents to name some important heritage places remaining in the city today, it is unlikely that many would mention the Walter Hill Ornamental Drinking Fountain.

The Commissariat Store, Brisbane City Hall, or even Lamb House might more readily come to mind because of their location, scale, or publicity, but the less well-known Walter Hill Fountain remains one of Brisbane’s most significant historical monuments.

This unheralded role in the popular history of Brisbane’s built environment is surprising considering that the fountain remains relatively well-preserved and prominently positioned within the Brisbane Botanic Gardens beside Parliament House.

AHS was commissioned by Brisbane City Council to deliver a Conservation Management Plan for the fountain which will guide any future renovation, restoration, adaptive re-use, and interpretive planning of this location.

Fine example of a Victorian era public monument

The Walter Hill Fountain was erected in 1867 to provide the public with clean drinking water sourced from the recently constructed Enoggera Reservoir. An underground piping system installed from the new mains supplied water to the fountain and irrigation to the gardens.

Standing approximately 3.5 metres tall and leaning slightly to the west, the monument has remained largely intact since its original construction. All the major structural components are made of sandstone with additional ornamental features in marble.

Water poured from the two ornate lion heads into marble collecting bowls below. The fountain was in use from 1867 until 1930, with the feet of thirsty visitors and overflow from the bowls wearing down the surface of the upper plinth on two sides.

The fountain was named in honour of Walter Hill, the first and longest-serving Superintendent of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens between 1855 and 1881. Hill also served as Colonial Botanist and cultivated the first healthy crops of sugarcane, cotton, tea, coffee, and pineapples in Queensland.

The Walter Hill Fountain in the Brisbane Botanic Gardens


A first for Queensland

The Walter Hill Fountain is the first known ornamental public drinking fountain to be built in Queensland. The novelty of this convenient resource and the cleanliness of water from Enoggera Reservoir would have made this a popular meeting point for Brisbane residents.

As well as being the first of its kind, this is one of just a few public drinking fountains constructed anywhere in the State during a period when such amenities were a rarity.

Another good example of its type in Brisbane is the Eagle Street Fountain which was built more than a decade later and became known as the Mooney Memorial Fountain, while others also remain in Cooktown, Ipswich, and Port Douglas.

Other than one existing partial levee bank, the Walter Hill Fountain is also the last surviving feature of Walter Hill’s original Fern Island Garden which was a prominent element of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens landscape design from the 1850s until the moat was removed in 1936.

Walter Hill was the first Superintendent of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens


A secure future

The importance of the Walter Hill Fountain is reflected by its inclusion on the Queensland Heritage Register as part of the larger Brisbane Botanic Gardens site.

However the AHS review of the Queensland Heritage Register statement of significance shows that the gardens’ current listing doesn’t reflect the unique importance of the fountain itself. We hope to see the fountain receive its own detailed listing as the next step in protecting the monument and surrounding site.

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

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The Challenge

The Walter Hill Fountain was erected in 1867 to provide the public with clean drinking water sourced from the recently constructed Enoggera Reservoir. An underground piping system installed from the new mains supplied water to the fountain and irrigation to the gardens.

Standing approximately 3.5 metres tall and leaning slightly to the west, the monument has remained largely intact since its original construction. All the major structural components are made of sandstone with additional ornamental features in marble.

Water poured from the two ornate lion heads into marble collecting bowls below. The fountain was in use from 1867 until 1930, with the feet of thirsty visitors and overflow from the bowls wearing down the surface of the upper plinth on two sides.

The fountain was named in honour of Walter Hill, the first and longest-serving Superintendent of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens between 1855 and 1881. Hill also served as Colonial Botanist and cultivated the first healthy crops of sugarcane, cotton, tea, coffee, and pineapples in Queensland.



How we helped

The Walter Hill Fountain is the first known ornamental public drinking fountain to be built in Queensland. The novelty of this convenient resource and the cleanliness of water from Enoggera Reservoir would have made this a popular meeting point for Brisbane residents.

As well as being the first of its kind, this is one of just a few public drinking fountains constructed anywhere in the State during a period when such amenities were a rarity.

Another good example of its type in Brisbane is the Eagle Street Fountain which was built more than a decade later and became known as the Mooney Memorial Fountain, while others also remain in Cooktown, Ipswich, and Port Douglas.

Other than one existing partial levee bank, the Walter Hill Fountain is also the last surviving feature of Walter Hill’s original Fern Island Garden which was a prominent element of the Brisbane Botanic Gardens landscape design from the 1850s until the moat was removed in 1936.

Results

The importance of the Walter Hill Fountain is reflected by its inclusion on the Queensland Heritage Register as part of the larger Brisbane Botanic Gardens site.

However the AHS review of the Queensland Heritage Register statement of significance shows that the gardens’ current listing doesn’t reflect the unique importance of the fountain itself. We hope to see the fountain receive its own detailed listing as the next step in protecting the monument and surrounding site.

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

You might also like to read:

Case Study

AHS projects with Cairns Regional Council include a CMP for Mulgrave Shire Council Chambers

Case Study

AHS uncovers a lengthy historical legal challenge while researching the William Mitchner Shelter

Case Study

AHS helps visitors experience the history of Cairns Court House

Case Study

AHS helps to conserve the Mount Morgan Coronation Lamp and Boer War Memorial

Case Study

Discovering the evolution of Queensland ambulance services at Charters Towers

Case Study

AHS helps preserve one of Buderim Mountain’s oldest surviving houses

Case Study

Rediscovering a heritage home’s socialite past in New Farm

Case Study

New tourism opportunities for Mount Morgan Railway Station

Case Study

AHS advises Rockhampton City Council on maintenance and heritage protection of the iconic Rockhampton Customs House

Case Study

Adaptive reuse in action at Port Douglas Sugar Wharf and Shed

Case Study

Archerfield Airport helps tell Brisbane’s aviation story

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AHS helps to preserve Kangaroo Point heritage home – Brisbane

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Conserving Brisbane’s iconic Old Museum Building

Case Study

AHS displays multidisciplinary expertise at Naldham House – Brisbane

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Evocative details at Boolboonda State Primary School – Bundaberg

Case Study

Adaptive reuse of Goldsworthy and Perkins Boot Factory – Brisbane

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AHS working with Traditional Owners – The Spit

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Contact Australian Heritage Specialists for a free consultation for your project from one of our award-winning consultants.