Public drinking fountains were installed in Sydney during the first decades of the 19th century. Some of the earliest were in Macquarie Place and on Bent Street.
Drinking fountains were installed in public places everyone to use. In the 19th century, most houses or shops were not connected to the water supply which meant they did not have taps inside for drinking water (or any water!). The public fountains provided Sydney’s resident’s with access to a fresh drinking water supply.
Most fountains had a metal tap or pipe, and the user either drank straight from the tap or pipe or from a shared cup. But there were fears that the shared cups and taps were spreading disease.
Bubblers, also known as ‘bubble fountains’, were introduced to Sydney’s parks and streets in the early 20th century. A bubbler was different to earlier drinking fountains in that water bubbled up when pressure was applied. The first free-standing bubble fountain was installed in Sydney on 2 June 1914. Most of the city’s existing fountains were retro-fitted with bubbling fountains in the early 20th century due to hygiene concerns. The bubbler ensured that the users mouth only came into contact with the water not a shared tap or cup.
There were 60 drinking fountains in Sydney in 1913. After bubblers were introduced, the numbers increased to around 150 by the 1940s.
Although many fountains were ornamental, such as the Frazer fountain in Hyde Park, all were built with the function of supplying fresh drinking water to Sydney’s citizens.
Find out more about Sydney’s drinking fountains here.