Sydney’s stories set in stone and water

Sydney’s stories set in stone and water

A history of Sydney through the ages is told in stone in a series of ornamental fountains dotted throughout our parks, public spaces and footpaths.

Forty-one unique water fountains are scattered across the City of Sydney, from contemporary artworks to war memorials, and features of great historical value.

Many of them have unique stories to tell – from visions of Sydney’s early wealth, colonial craftsmanship and engineering, to memorials for those lost in battle, messages of reconciliation and playful contemporary art.

“Spanning the city from Circular Quay to Green Square, these fountains and hidden water features bring a human quality to our public spaces and are a reminder of our city’s rich history,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“Sydneysiders have told us they want a city with spaces where they can pause, contemplate and refresh their spirits, and the City is proud to preserve this valuable collection for many more generations to enjoy.”

Colonial craftsmanship features in Hyde Park’s John Baptist Fountain, the oldest locally-made ornamental fountain in NSW. Carved in the 1850s, the fountain was originally used for private bathing at Elizabeth Bay House. It was moved to Hyde Park in 1888 and relocated within the park around 1920.

Sydney’s early wealth can be seen in Kings Cross’ Beare Park, which contains a decorative octagonal spa bath that dates back to 1882 and was part of an elaborate conservatory for private bathing. The park also features one of the few remaining wrought-iron canopy drinking fountains shipped in from Scotland in the 1850s and placed around the city for welcome refreshment.

Commemorating the association between Australia and France in World War I is Hyde Park’s renowned Archibald Fountain, while John Christie Wright Fountain in Macquarie Place Park commemorates Scottish-born Australian sculptor John Christie Wright, killed on the battlefields in France during World War I.

Across the city in Redfern Park is a playful Lotus Line water sculpture by acclaimed Aboriginal artist Fiona Foley. Designed for children to run though, it features an extract from former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s ‘Redfern speech’, which helped pave the way toward reconciliation for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

The City takes great care in preserving this valuable collection of monuments and public art, and has a two-hour emergency response time to any reported damage to ensure these features remain in top condition for thousands of visitors to enjoy each year.

Other water features with stories to tell include:

  • Golden Water Mouth in Chinatown, which commemorates the Chinese arrival in Australia as ‘the new gold mountain’. Made from a yellow box tree trunk and covered in 23-carat gold leaf, the artwork incorporates Shui Kou elements of water, wood, metal and earth designed to bring good fortune to the thriving retail and tourist hub; 
  • Busby’s Bore Fountain, which marks the delivery point for Sydney’s first piped water, which ran through an underground channel from Centennial Park to Hyde Park. The original bore was excavated using convict labour and its channels still run under the park today; 
  • The Passage water sculpture in Martin Place, which contains the outlines of the walls of early Georgian houses traced in black granite and inlaid stainless steel grilles. The three bronze bowl fountains represent washrooms at the rear of the houses. Created by artist Anne Graham in 2001, the piece also forms part of the Sydney sculpture walk. 

For more information, visit:

For media inquiries or images, contact City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser Jodie Minus.

Phone 0467 803 815 or email

For interview with Lord Mayor Clover Moore, contact Jonathon Larkin.

Phone 0477 310 149 or email