Frazer Fountain Hyde Park

Related to City Art
Installed 1881
A square sandstone structure in a Gothic architectural style rests on a pathway in Hyde Park. There are trees and buildings in the background.
Sandstone columns with floral ornamentation rise to support a gothic arch.
A square sandstone roof with crenellations rests atop a square of Gothic arches. Beneath the crenellations is an inscription reading "Presented by".

Gothic style sandstone drinking fountain gifted to the public by prominent philanthropist John Frazer.

Artist: Lawrence Beveridge (sculptor), Thomas Sapsford (designer)

Artwork description

This is the first of 2 Frazer drinking fountains donated by John Frazer MLC, a wealthy businessman and philanthropist. The fountains are both made of fine Pyrmont sandstone and were installed in 1881 and 1884 respectively. While both fountains were designed by City Architect Thomas Sapsord and sculpted by Mittagong sculptor Lawrence Beveridge, they're very different in style.

This fountain was designed in the Gothic style and is set on a square base. Four column groups, which support the wide arches, arise from the corners. There is a crenelated spire surmounted by a lantern and steps at the base of the fountain to give access on each side to the area where the water basin formerly stood.

The fountain is now located in Hyde Park south, opposite Sydney Grammar School. It was moved twice in the first half of the 20th century. The first relocation, in 1917, saw it fall victim to patriotic fervour, when it was removed to a position near the present Pool of Reflection to make way for the Emden Gun. During the second move, in 1934, the taps and drinking cups were replaced with a bubbler in keeping with changing attitudes towards health and hygiene.


The Frazer fountains demonstrate aspects of daily life in the 19th century, particularly supply and use of water, and public health and hygiene. They're also an indicator of the philanthropy demonstrated by the wealthy at the time.

In the early 1880s, Sydney’s piped water supply was unreliable and largely restricted to the wealthy. Occasional crises in supplies of water were only abated after the completion of the Nepean system in 1888. Drinking fountains in public thoroughfares and parks were common. Hygiene standards were also far less stringent than today as illustrated by the use of communal cups that dangled at the sides of the basins. For philanthropists, the masonry of the fountains afforded a publicly visible space on which their name and good works could be recorded forever.

Designer and sculptor

Both Frazer fountains were designed by Thomas Sapsford and sculpted by Lawrence Beveridge. Sapsford served as City Architect for the City of Sydney from 1881 to 1885. Sapsford was responsible for the design of Centennial Hall in the Sydney Town Hall.

John Frazer

John Frazer’s gift to the city came at the end of a comparatively short, but eventful life. Born in Ireland in 1827 he arrived in Australia, penniless, in 1841, aged 14. Frazer set up his own wholesale grocery business in 1847. By the late 1850’s he had moved into partnership and larger premises, becoming a land speculator in the 1860’s and opening two large commercial premises in the city by the early 1870’s.

He had successfully undertaken a number of directorships. In 1874, by the time he retired from his own business concerns, he was nominated to the NSW Legislative Council. His philanthropic activities were also wide-ranging by this stage, and included gifts to a variety of religious, cultural and educational causes.


The first inscription is set high up, using raised lettering on a slab below the crenellations. It reads:

Presented by John Frazer M.L.C. to His Fellow Citizens. John Hardie, Mayor, 1881–2.

The second inscription is on the base of the fountain. It reads:

Thos. M Sapsford, City Architect
L. Beveridge, Sculptor

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