"A LITTLE oasis in our desert", was the description given to Radcliffe's first public monument -- an ornate drinking fountain writes Richard Connor

Those were the words of the Rector of Radcliffe Rev Stanley Swinburne, a very outspoken man.

Chronicling the origins of the monument in the Radcliffe Historical Almanac, the clergyman took the opportunity to make comments on the town and its population in general.

Erected in 1896, the fountain stood at the junction of four roads near Radcliffe Bridge. The site was formerly occupied by the "big lamp", a popular meeting place.

The ornament had been donated by Mrs Noah Rostron in memory of her late husband.

When the monument was unveiled, Rev Swinburne observed that Radcliffe previously had very little to its credit aesthetically.

He noted: "While there are small towns where we might find beauty and design everywhere, we have to confess that in Radcliffe we have beauty nowhere and design nowhere.

"We have not a handsome terrace, not a handsome street, not a really handsome residence and until recently not a solitary monument to public man.

"Radcliffe is simply one huge higgledy-piggledy of straggling bricks, mortar and common windows without arrangement or method."

He said that, were it not for a few churches and chapels, the town's bricks and slate dreariness would excite the derision of all reasonable municipalists with up-to-date notions.

"For these things whom shall we blame? We have no municipality with a large purse behind it -- possibly there lies the cause.

"If Rome was not built in a day, we cannot expect Radcliffe to be built in a decade."

Despite his disdain for much about the town at the time, the rector was optimistic about the future.

He said that the erection of costly technical schools and other advancements in education would hopefully reap real rewards for the town.

He envisaged that the pupils of today would help improve Radcliffe tomorrow, particularly by relaying its streets.

"When our streets are evenly paved and our sidewalks faultlessly flagged, the adornment of the houses will follow as surely as night follows day and the people will gladly pay the rates necessary for the purpose," he said.

He quoted a friend who offered a woman a free pair of curtains if she would clean her dirty front window.

Neighbours soon followed suit, he said, and soon the whole street sparkled as residents took greater care of their properties after the initial encouragement.

"There is a beautiful philosophy in the physical features of a town affecting the mental operations of the people.

"We need a turn upward and forward which shall tend to a municipal policy of betterment and beauty in the outward aspect of things."

To this end, the rector added that he hoped the drinking fountain would "expand and grow in every direction".