The Berwick Fountain, one of the few public fountains in Cork, was built in 1860. It is named after Sergeant Walter Berwick who came to Cork in 1847 as Chairman of the Quarter Sessions court. This court was a quarterly county court which dealt with minor criminal offences. Berwick was a very popular justice, very well thought of in the city and county. When he was made a judge of the bankruptcy court in 1859 he received congratulations and well wishes from many sections of Cork society. Moved by the tributes he decided to present the city with an ornamental fountain.
The fountain stands near the former site of the statue of King George II which once stood on Tuckey's Bridge before the waterway along the Grand Parade was culverted and built over. The Berwick Fountain was designed by Sir John Benson and was finally presented by Berwick to the mayor John Arnott who accepted it on behalf of the city on 1 January 1862.
During refurbishment of the adjacent sections of the Grand Parade, the fountain was carefully disassembled during the summer of 2006 and temporarily removed on 1 July 2006. The Berwick Fountain was reassembled in June 2007 near the spot where it originally stood.
The Cork Constitution of 7 January 1860 described the design of the fountain in the following terms: 'The ornamental fountain which Judge Berwick announced his intention of having erected in this city as a memorial of his long connection with the locality as Chairman of Quarter Sessions will shortly stand before us. The design drawn by Sir John Benson has been approved of by the Learned Judge and arrangements have been made for the speedy execution of the work. The structure promises to be of a highly ornamental character. It will consist of a lower basin of moulded and chiselled limestone twenty-two feet in diameter by two feet six inches deep. From the centre of this will rise an ornamental pedestal bearing a circular basin or tazza eight feet six inches in diameter, composed of a single block of limestone and paved with leaves and foliage on the lower edge. Out of this will spring a second pedestal similar to the lower, on which will rest a third basin five feet in diameter, also of limestone. From the centre of this will rise metallic work carrying a pipe. This is to send forth a jet of water which, after rising to a considerable elevation, will fall into the three basins below, and these being overflowed will be converted into so many miniature cascades. The whole height of the structure from the pavement is to be about eighteen feet, and its cost when completed £150.'
The final design had four basins. The topmost basin in cast iron was supported by figures of dolphins resting on the basin below.
Patrick Joseph Scannell, a monument mason with a workshop in Douglas Street and an owner of a limestone quarry in Beaumont, cut the stones used in building the fountain.
After the fountain was erected the supply of water to the fountain was erratic, as the supply of water in Cork city during the nineteenth century was frequently interrupted. Very often there was no water supplied to the fountain and the lower basin became a repository for waste and a play space for children. The Cork Constitution commented in June 1861: ' It is a sort of freehold for every ragged urchin who can manage to climb two feet...' The fountain took on a decrepit appearance. So much so that Walter Berwick wrote to the Mayor of Cork on 10 May 1861 '...it is not only not made use of for the purpose of ornament, but it is becoming a nuisance to the city from the state of dirt and filth in which it is allowed to remain...I have no alternative but to ask you leave to remove it as I do not wish to undergo martyrdom in my devotion to the city of Cork, and in which case I shall only lament that I did not devise some more fitting and more prized mark of my regards for its inhabitants.'
Berwick's anguished plea galvanized Cork Corporation. The fountain was cleaned up and the water supply restored. Judge Walter Berwick formally presented the fountain to John Arnott who accepted it on behalf of the city on 1 January 1862. Later that same day Arnott was succeeded as mayor by John Francis Maguire, the founder of the Cork Examiner.
During redevelopment work on the Grand Parade in 2006 it was decided to temporarily remove the Berwick Fountain for refurbishment. In the summer of 2006 the fountain was railed off and carefully disassembled. The disassembled pieces were removed on 1 July 2006. The refurbished fountain was repositioned in June 2007 almost on the same spot where it had stood for over one hundred and forty years. The figures of the dolphins on the original fountain were replaced; otherwise the fountain was reassembled exactly as it had been.
The Berwick Fountain is still a popular gathering place for young people, especially for revellers in the early hours of the morning after night clubs and other places of entertainment close.