Restoring one of our first water bubblers, Frazer Fountain

The excellent example of early, decorative drinking sources in Sydney has been revitalised to its former glory.

Project Status: Completed

What we’re doing

Frazer Fountain, one of Sydney’s first water bubblers located in Hyde Park, has been restored to its former glory.

While most are no longer functional, these fountains are excellent examples of some of Sydney’s early, decorative drinking sources.

Restoration work on the fountain started in early 2016 and was completed in late 2016.

We installed a new base, plinth and steps. We also repaired the cracks in the mortar and revitalised the intricate filigree works of the John Frazer fountain, ensuring its continuing place in our city’s rich history.

Why we’re doing this

The fountain, along with its pair, quenched the thirst of many Sydneysiders at a time when sources of clean drinking water were few. It was not only a source of clean drinking water, but it also became one of the park’s most-loved early features.

Gifted to his fellow citizens by John Frazer, a wealthy philanthropist and one of the city’s early entrepreneurs, the fountain was commissioned in 1881 and installed in 1882. The fountain is one of a pair of decorative, canopied drinking fountains. Its twin, designed in the Italian renaissance style, was installed on Prince Albert Road in 1884, where it still stands today.

First installed at the Hyde Park entrance today known as Whitlam Square, Frazer Fountain was moved near the Pool of Reflection in 1917 to make way for the Emden Gun. The gun from the SMS Emden of the Imperial German Navy was sunk by the original HMAS Sydney after a 90-minute sea battle during World War 1. In 1934 the fountain was moved once again to its current location near College Street when Hyde Park south was remodelled.

John Frazer emigrated from Ireland in 1842 as a carpenter and joiner with little wealth. Forward thinking and industrious, he became an extremely successful and influential businessman, owning one of central Sydney’s largest mercantile stores. Over his life he amassed a fortune of £405,000 – the equivalent of about $47.5 million today.

The original design of the fountain featured cups dangling from the large water basin for people to take a drink. Every detail in the design was considered, with the taps made of bronze in the shape of dolphins.

Hygiene standards were less stringent in the 19th century, but over time the city council realised the health hazards of communal cups. In 1934 it replaced the basin and taps with the new bubble stream design – today’s bubbler.

Bucking the usual trend of importing ready-made structures from overseas, the fountains were designed by Thomas Sapsford, the architect who also designed Sydney Town Hall’s Centennial Hall. He worked alongside local sculptor Lawrence Beveridge, who carved both structures using the finest-available Pyrmont sandstone.

Visit the John Frazer fountains and the many other water features in our local area with our newly updated ‘Walk on Water’ self-guided walking tour and the Sydney Culture Walks app.

Time capsule discovery

Stonemasons who are working to restore Frazer Fountain have uncovered a time capsule from 1934.

Further reading

City Art: Frazer Fountain Hyde Park

Office of Environment and Heritage: Frazer Memorial Fountain