The Fountain was originally known as the Wapping are which is perhaps a reference to the London origins of some of the settlers who arrived in the city during the Plantation in the early 17th century. During the early 17th century when the walled city was first built only Anglican were allowed to live within the walls. The Scottish Presbyterians that settled in the city mostly lived in the Wapping area.
The term ‘Fountain’ started to be used in the early 19th century. The first bridge which ran from the bottom of what is no fountain hill in the waterside and bridge street on the city side included wooden pipes to transport water from a reservoir on fountain hill to a basin in Wapping lane. Local people referred to this basin as ‘the fountain; and the name gradually stuck.
During the mid to late 19th century, rows of smaller terraced streets were built for the workers in the shirt factories, port and other emerging industries. Several large factories were built in the area between the late 19th century and early 19th century: Welch Margetson Factory, Robert Sinclaire Factory, Tille & Henderson Factory and Davin’s Box Factory.
During the escalation of the troubles many houses were damaged in the area between the unionist fountain area and the bishop street area this resulted in the construction of a ‘Peace Wall’ which still stands to this day. During the troubles, the majority of the unionists moved to the waterside and the Fountain remains the only working class unionist area remaining on the cityside.
The Heritage Tower
This tower was once part of the former Derry Gaol which was the 3rd prison in the city that was built in 1791 to replace the former Gaol that were inside the walls. The towers of the Gaol including this one were added to the Gaol in 1824, this tower was a hanging tower. The rest of the gaol was closed in 1953 and demolished in 1973 and only this tower remains.
Robert Sinclair Factory
Robert Sinclair & Co opened this factory in 1863 with a distinctive clock that faces out towards the Craigavon bridge. It is right across the road from where the famous Tillie & Henderson Factory was and was converted into Apartments in 2017.
Welch Margetson Factory
Welch Margetson was a menswear manufacturers in London that was opened in 1832 by Joseph Welsh and John Margetson, The company first opened a warehouse in the Waterside in 1847, which was used to cut and supply materials for shirts to be made in workers homes using an outworkers system. In 1850 they moved to Foyle street but still relied heavily on outworkers, they then changed to a factory system in the Factory on Carlisle Road.
The Loyalist Murals in the Fountain showcase a wide range of Loyalist culture from scenes of history, slogans and Ulster Scots culture. The black wall with white writing at this location that says “Londonderry West Bank Loyalists still Under Siege No Surrender” references the exodus of Loyalists from the Cityside and “No Surrender” was shouted from the walls when James II approached the city requesting it surrender.
The 3rd Derry Gaol was on bishop’s Street at this location, it was demolished in 1973 but one of the towers which were added in 1824 remains. The first prison was opened in 1620 in the Diamond and the 2nd was opened at Ferryquay gate in 1676 both inside the walls. The Gaol has had notable “Guests” including Theobald Wolfe Tone and Eamon de Valera.