London, up till this last hundred years or so, was just plumb full of horses — horses being ridden, horses pulling carts and wagons, horses pulling carriages. So I got to thinking about how these thousands of Regency horses got water to drink, London not being full of little trickling streams and all.
The answer, of course, is horse troughs. These were a private enterprise in 1800, rather than a municipal concern. Livery stables and every mews with horse and carriage would have had water for the horses and a stable boy to fetch it. Water accessible to a passing rider seems to have been the offering of inns and taverns, luring customers with drink for the horses as well as drink for the man.
Some, like this to the right, were obviously free to the public, to anyone riding along this road. Other places doubtless expected a tip or an outright fee. One later public house water trough is inscribed: All that water their horses here Must pay a penny or have some beer. Hmmm … hard choice, that.
These Regency water troughs were made of wood and generally elevated off the ground. They'd have been filled, bucket by bucket, by some inn servant or tavern boy sent out with the admonition, "And mind you don't dawdle about it." What you might call, 'running water'.
These wooden troughs have disappeared in the intervening centuries, but we have surviving Victorian horse troughs, here and there in London. These were put in place on the streets by benevolent societies. Benevolent for the horses on the street and benevolent for the people too — they often had a drinking fountain at one end.
In this photo to the right you can see the pump that filled this Victorian trough. And here below is a man using this sort of pump.
Above is very typical example of the surviving Victorian horse troughs. The upraised part at the end was the drinking fountain for humans.
Horses are gone from the streets. The Regency horse troughs utterly disintegrated. Local folks plant flowers in the old Victorian concrete water troughs and tourists follow maps, going from one to the other.
So, if you were a philanthropic society, what would you put on the streets of your home town to improve the quality of life?