Sunday, 26 January 2014

Ealing Common – a little history on my doorstep

 Yesterday Maxi and I went for a schnauzer round Ealing Common. We saw a break in the clouds, and skedaddled out of the house for a breath of fresh air while the going was good. For a short while we even had a little spot of watery sunshine, but, as you can see, the Common was pretty waterlogged after all the rain.

Now I don’t know about you, but I occasionally happen upon things on my day-to-day wanderings that have been there since forever without my ever having noticed them before.  

Well, yesterday, in front of the Grange Pub, on the corner of the Common, I paused to read the inscription on an old water fountain. I’d seen it a hundred times, but had never taken any notice of it.

It read: ‘Presented by the Metropolitan Fountain and Cattle Drinking Trough Association’.
This seemed a pretty unusual association for London, W5. It struck me that it had probably been quite a while since we’d had a herd of moo-cows chewing their cud on the Common and partaking of a cool drink from our splendid fountain.

I came home nursing the image of happy cows grazing on the grass as drovers kicked back for a bevy on their way to Smithfield.

After a quick bit of research I learnt that the Metropolitan Fountain and Cattle Drinking Trough Association was a philanthropic group, set up the wake of a cholera epidemic that had swept across England in 1854, with the objective of providing pure, clean water for the people to stave off disease. Over time the Temperance movement got in on the act, strategically choosing to erect many of the fountains outside public houses to discourage people from going in. You see the publicans had previously provided a watering trough for their patron’s animals, encouraging the good folk to go inside to tend to the needs of their beasts if not their own.

So this must have been how our fountain came to be strategically sited directly outside the Grange Pub. I wonder whether the publican of the day noticed a drop in his trade as a result of the free water appearing outside, and whether the local vicar was a strong Temperance man who preached against the demon drink.

For a moment I had a brief hint of the neighbourhood politics and daily goings on from all those years ago. Do you ever get a sense of the forgotten lives that once echoed around the streets where you live? And isn’t it just a little bit sobering to think that one day, in the future, we will be nothing more than echoes ourselves?

Bonny x

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