Water pumps in the city of London were used to provide citizens with fresh water, and could by siphoned off into troughs for animals to drink from. They could also be used by fire brigades to put out fires in the area – fire brigades were for a long time nothing more than a group of men with a horse and cart.
Here’s a picture of the Cornhill water pump in 1948.
But the pump is much, much older than that. An inscription on one side reads:
On this spot a well was first made and a house of correction built thereon. By Henry Wallis Mayor of London. In the year 1282.
The house of correction didn’t last and the well was lost. But this wasn’t the end of it, oh no. The opposite side reads:
The well was discovered. Much enlarged. And this pump erected. In the year 1799. By the contributions of the Bank Of England. The East India Company. The neighbouring fire offices. Together with the bankers & traders of the ward of Cornhill.