Ice cream and drinking fountain
On the landward side of Eastbourne’s seafront there is a traditional ice cream parlour called Fusciardi’s. Outside on the pavement is a drinking fountain. Most people pass by without noticing, assuming that it has always been there. Not so.
Fusciardi’s serves ice cream as it should be made, lots of different types from honeycomb to cherry to pistachio, served in a cone, wafer, or tall glass dish. This is the best of the lot, maybe as much as £5 for a portion, but what a lot you receive, from fruit, to nuts, to ice cream, to toppings. Fusciardi’s have been serving the Eastbourne public for over forty years, long may they continue.
They have tables and chairs outside on the pavement, with most people ignoring the adjacent unconnected traditional drinking fountain.
There is an inscription on the side, which states ‘this drinking fountain was donated in September 1865 by Mrs. Elizabeth Curling (1790-1873) who lived in Kent Lodge, Seaside Road (Now Trinity Trees). The fountain was originally located in the middle of the road in Seaside, near the junction of Leaf Hall Road. It was first moved to the corner with Langney Road, probably in the 1950s, before being restored and relocated here on 21st December 2000.’
But there is far more to the story than that.
The reason for erecting the fountain was temperance. Mrs. Curling was a wealthy Eastbourne benefactress who saw the perils of the Demon Drink, providing the poorer residents with an alternative.
The cast iron fountain was built at the Britannia Works, of the Handyside Foundry in Derby. The cost would have been in the region of £18. 0s. 0d. The animal drinking trough at the base is covered up. The original gas lamp is still in place though not working.
Initially, the fountain was erected outside The Marine Hotel, now pub, which was built in 1806 to accommodate visitors to the newly built Redoubt Fort. Beer was supplied by a local brewery, and the landlord’s name was Mr. Rason, so his name was on the front of the hostelry.
Local historian Terry Colbran has kindly provided me with a copy photo, probably dated about 1870. This was not just the site of the drinking fountain, water provided by the River Bourne, but also Speakers Corner, which was situated outside the Hotel.
This was the first site of the drinking fountain, but the traffic was increasing greatly so it had to be moved from the middle of the road, which makes me doubt its removal ‘probably in the 1950s’.
The Langney Road site was more suitable, because of its closer proximity to the water source. This was also close to the original wash house, later to be an auction house, now defunct.
The drinking fountain became derelict over the years, and when Seahouses Square on the seafront alongside Fusciardi’s was improved the site seemed ideal. The fountain was restored to its former glory, but still without fresh water. There are moves afoot to move it back to its second site on the corner of Langney Road, possibly even being restored to its original intention of providing sustenance to the thirsty.