A 19th century water fountain at Williamstown Cemetery was switched on last Friday after undergoing a 12-month, $450,000 restoration.

Designed by Melbourne-based architectural modelers Wardrop and Scurry, the 1892 fountain is one of only three of its type erected in Victoria around the same period.

It was built in honour of Agnes Fairbairn Turnbull, the wife of master mariner John Joseph White, who died on November 3, 1889 and was buried at the cemetery.

The Greater Metropolitan Cemeteries Trust chief executive Jacqui Weatherill said the fountain had been decaying and leaking and was missing an upper bowl.

“It is a beautiful fountain, which is in a neo-baroque fashion and it’s got garlands and cherubs and griffins and masks and baroque-style dolphins,” she said.

“The local community in the Williamstown area, who are very passionate, were very keen to see it restored to its former glory – in particular, the Friends of Williamstown Cemetery.”

The fountain’s refurbishment was jointly funded by Victoria’s Heritage Restoration Fund and the Trust.

“We appointed heritage fountain restoration company to come and restore the fountain, and it is painstaking work,” Ms Weatherill said.

“You’re talking tiny little griffins and dolphins. It’s almost like with a toothbrush, they work their way through cleaning it and restoring it.”

The fountain was switched on by Williamstown MP Wade Noonan at a ceremonial event featuring a town crier and the Williamstown High School band.