Cattle Trough watercolor and ink by Meer Rao
When I came across this opposite the public library on Queens Ave in Muswell Hill, London, I just assumed it was for flowers for neighborhood beautification. Then I saw the inscription on the sides: 'Metropolitan Drinking Fountain & Cattle Trough' it said on the long side and had this inscription on the short side: 'In Memory of the late David Kidd of Leyton.' There was also a notice that confirmed its present status as a planter maintained by the local Association- and a request to enjoy the flowers but not take any of the plants.
Upon googling, I discovered the fascinating history of these troughs and what lead to the government takeover of the water supply for the citizens from private suppliers, paving the way to the modern sewer and water systems. According to Wikipedia :
The Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association was an association set up in London by Samuel Gurney, a Member of Parliament, and philanthropist and Edward Thomas Wakefield, a barrister, in 1859 to provide free drinking water. Originally called the Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association it changed its name to include cattle troughs in 1867, to also support animal welfare. In 2011, as the Drinking Fountain Association, it began to support the Find-a-Fountain campaign to map the UK's drinking water fountains.
I also found out that the troughs that have survived over the years are mainly granite and they are mostly now planted with flowers. Cast iron or Zinc lined timber were also in vogue - but were too easily damaged. The write up was really fascinating - amazing how any one thing can have so much history and be a part of the culture of the place!