Tucked away in a courtyard at the National Museum of Singapore is the Gemmill Fountain. It is Singapore’s oldest public drinking fountain and was donated by banker John Gemmill in 1864 as a parting gift before he left the island.
The Gemmill Fountain originally stood at Commercial Square (now known as Raffles Place), before being moved to Empress Place and eventually to the National Museum of Singapore in 1967. It can be found at the outdoor terrace behind the main ticketing counter.
It is made of marble and features lion’s head as a sprout.
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it can be viewed in a picture dating back to the early 1900s opposite the now-defunct John Little’s department store.
In addition to being Singapore’s first banker, he is also considered Singapore’s first auctioneer. As a banker, in January 1839, he advertised in the newspapers that he would offer a interest rate of 6 per cent per annum on a minimum deposit of $100! That would be an amazing rate by today’s standards!
The inscription on the Gemmill Fountain reads “For the use of all nations at Singapore” “This drinking fountain of pure water is the gift of John Gemmill formerly of this island and now of London”.
It originally stood at the centre of Raffles Square, now Raffles Place, and then was moved to Town Hall (present-day Victoria Memorial Hall) and finally to the National Museum of Singapore where it was fully restored and put on display.
So, the next time you pay a visit to the National Museum of Singapore, look out for the Gemmill Fountain, Singapore’s oldest public drinking fountain.