West Bay Discovery Centre, West Bay, Bridport, DT6 4EN.

Discovering Relics from the Past in West Bay

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The water fountain (trough)

Have you ever even noticed the water trough or wondered how long it has been at West Bay?

This water trough is the only relic left in West Bay of the era of the horse drawn cart. Horses were an integral part of Harbour life, as well as being used to transport goods they were used to haul shingle from the beach. The ships carrying timber would berth alongside the North and South Quays and the timber was unloaded onto long horse-drawn carts. Some imports were stored in the various warehouses around the harbour or, as was the case of the timber (after 1884) taken to the station for transport. Throughout the late 18th and 19th centuries horses would have been indispensable to the local industry.

Back in July 1890 the fountain was officially opened by Alderman Elias Cox. The funding for the fountain came from a lady that had no connection with West Bay but was prompted by a feeling of humanity and love of animals. She was also one of the largest subscribers at the time to the Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (now the R.S.P.C.A), and during the whole of her life took a great interest in animals and their treatment. She gave about a dozen similar troughs in different parts of the country. There was originally an inscription on the trough which is believed to have read ‘A merciful man is merciful to his beast’. At the end of the opening ceremony several persons drank at the fountain and allowed their horses to drink out of the trough, and the small gathering then dispersed.

Although it provided a boon to man and beast in sultry weather, there were a few teething problems with it!  Only a month later there was a complaint in the Bridport News 15th August 1890 saying : “It is no doubt capital thing as a drinking trough, but some better arrangement should certainly be made for carrying off the overflow water, which now runs over the roadway to such an extent as to cause a nuisance. Could not something be done to improve also, the tap at this fountain- the knob is placed just under the pipe and is so hard to push that it is almost Impossible for children or ladies to avail themselves of the use of the fountain.”

In 2008 the Lions Club of Bridport gave the trough a makeover, it has now become a planting trough providing residents and visitors with a colourful display throughout the year. It is supplied and cared for by one of the residents in West Bay.

Next time you are wandering past take a moment to look at this relic from the past in more detail!

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