The Jubilee Drinking Water Fountain

The Jubilee drinking water fountain in East Grinstead High Street was a gift from Rev. C H Payne Crawfurd and was erected in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. It was designed by the then vicar of St Swithun’s Rev. D Y Blakiston and built by local builder James Charlwood (his name is still visible on the south side of the fountain) with the masonry carried out by James Jenner, whose descendants still live in the town.

In the middle of the 19th century drinking water was not reliable and many people drank beer instead. A movement to provide public sources of clean drinking water was started towards the end of the century and many public drinking water fountains were erected across the country.

The original fountain was made of yellow York Stone with a red Mansfield sandstone roof with a feathered finial linking to the feathers from the town’s 1572 seal of arms.  The water spouted from two of four bronze dolphins and had metal drinking cups attached on chains.  There are diamond shapes and roundels on the faces of the fountain, which mirror similar detailing on the south entrance to Sackville College.

The High Street and water fountain 1903-1909
Photo courtesy of East Grinstead Museum

Jubilee Water Fountain

Over the years the fountain has seen various ‘interventions’; on Jubilee Day, 21 June 1887, the fountain was found to be smeared with boiled tar. It is believed this was because of Crawfurd’s withdrawal of support from the town band.

The “dolphins”, a heraldic term applied to somewhat ugly fish, have disappeared, and reappeared over time.  They were initially replaced by cast iron replicas and later in the 1970s, by “somewhat crude” concrete replacements used solely for decoration. These, together with a concrete replacement finial, also disappeared without record sometime later. In 1972 the fountain was listed Grade 2.

There has been no definitive record of water flowing from the fountain recently, other than this photograph of Jill Eustathopoulos drinking from the fountain in 1953.

The fountain in 1986 showing concrete dolphins and finial.

On the south side of the fountain is a blank panel and it is thought this originally held a carved Latin inscription, a contemporary translation reads; “Charles Walter Payne-Crawfurd in this parish whilom born and therein afterwards long resident, erected this fountain for the public use in the year of grace 1987, when Queen Victoria had fulfilled the fiftieth year of her reign. God Save the Queen.” A bronze plaque has now been installed with the original Latin wording.

The fountain was repaired and cleaned in 2005 and a new red sandstone finial was installed. Further cleaning was carried out in 2017 both with funding from the Rotary Clubs of East Grinstead but no attempt was made to reconnect the water.

In 2021 The East Grinstead Society (EGS) spearheaded an initiative to sensitively bring the fountain back into use for filling reuseable drinking bottles and help reduce plastic waste.  Partial cleaning was undertaken in time for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June 2022.    Replacing the original dolphins was not practical due to modern water regulations and the potential for illegal removal however, new push button brass taps have been installed instead.

Moving forward, East Grinstead Town Council has taken back responsibility for future maintenance and repair and so, the fountain has been returned to the Town as originally gifted by Rev. Payne-Crawfurd in 1887.

Charles Payne Crawfurd

Charles Payne Crawfurd was born at Saint Hill on 14th March 1826. Charles was the son of Robert Payne Crawfurd (1801-1883). Charles entered the Anglican Church and was ordained in 1850.

The Rev. Charles Crawfurd married Mary Ogle and the couple had eleven children including Gibbs (1854), Arabella (1855), Caroline (1856), Robert (1857), Georgina (1858), Charles (1860) and Lional (1864). Rev. Charles Crawfurd, a curate at Bourton-on-the-Water, returned to East Grinstead in 1863 and established a home for his family at East Court.

Once back in East Grinstead, Charles Crawfurd became involved in the local community. With the help of J. H. Rogers, assistant warden at Sackville College, Crawfurd established a cottage hospital in Green Hedges.

Crawfurd was also active in local politics. A staunch Conservative, Crawfurd was elected to the Local Government Board in August 1884. Appointed chairman, Crawfurd held the post until December 1894. He was also the first chairman of the newly formed East Grinstead Urban District Council but relinquished this post in August 1895 on medical advice.

Although Charles Crawfurd did not return to political office after 1895, he continued to serve as a magistrate until shortly before his death on 10th March 1909.


Much of this information has been obtained from an article by the late Michael Leppard in his book “100 Buildings of East Grinstead” as well as from newspaper cuttings kindly provided by Society member the late Arthur Crawfurd, great grandson of the original benefactor.

The East Grinstead Society partners in this initiative included East Grinstead Rotary, the “By the Fountain Restaurant”, East Grinstead Lions and Portland Vets.  In addition, Messrs Cowan Architects greatly assisted in the preparation of material for the planning and listed building applications and South East Water helped investigate and subsequently make the water connection.  The work was also supported by a grant from Mid Sussex District Council.