Thornbury and District Museum: Tragic story behind the Maclaine Fountain

June 26 2019
Thornbury and District Museum: Tragic story behind the Maclaine Fountain

ON February 3 1882, William Osborne Maclaine signed an agreement with the Guardians of the Poor of the Union of Thornbury in their capacity as the rural sanitary authority for the town.

It stated that a drinking foundation would be provided in the High Street.

Behind the agreement lies a tragic story. The fountain was to commemorate the death of William Osborne Maclaine’s son, Lieutenant Hector Maclaine.

The fountain bears the inscription: “Erected by public subscription in addition to a window in Thornbury Church to the memory of Lieut. Hector Maclaine, Royal Horse Artillery who was taken prisoner while trying to get water for the wounded after the battle of Maiwand and was afterwards murdered in the camp of Ayoub Khan, near Candahar on 1st September 1880.”

The battle of Maiwand took place in the Second Afghan War, when fear of Russian designs on Afghanistan led Britain to interfere in its affairs.

The fund which was set up for the memorial window in the church was so well subscribed that the surplus money was used to provide the fountain.

William Osborne Maclaine, who was mayor of Thornbury at least three times in 1852, 1865 and 1876, had already played a role in bringing water to Thornbury. Written inside the parish records is a note that a “91 feet well was dug in Bullseye Lane by William Osborne Maclaine in November 1859”.

George Ford, who has spent some time researching local history, has told us that this well became contaminated after the market was opened up close to Bullseye Lane and it could no longer be used as a water source.

The original position for the Maclaine Fountain was in the High Street, between the Methodist church and the register office. When the fire station was built, the fountain was placed more or less in its original position, but between the doors of the fire station, below. Soon, however, bigger fire engines were used and the doors had to be made wider.

In December 1956, the planning officer received proposals to move the memorial from the fire station to its present site on the top of Castle Street, near Latteridge Lane.