Smart Queen Caroline
by Sarah Staton, commissioned by Tideway
The ‘cultural meander’ or heritage theme for the West section of the tunnel is ‘Recreation to Industry: Society in Transition.’ Within this concept, the artist considers the site-specific narrative for Hammersmith Pumping Station, which occupies part of the former riverside estate of Brandenburg House, where Queen Caroline of Brunswick, the controversial wife of George IV, died in 1821.
The artist, in response to the Tideway’s historical Heritage Interpretation Strategy (HIS), has developed an artwork which presents a quote from Queen Caroline, as pertinent now as it was 200 years ago, and sets this in Doves Type, the whole is cast in bronze:
‘A government cannot stop the march of intellect any more than they can arrest the motion of the tides or the course of the planets’ — Queen Caroline quoted in The Times, 1820
Queen Caroline became the figurehead and central catalyst in the 18th century Reform Movement, opposing the increasingly unpopular King George. The Reform Movement went on to culminate in the Reform Acts creating ‘universal suffrage’, the right for all to vote.
Many revolutionary pronouncements, including this quote, were made in Caroline's name. Queen Caroline of Brunswick was celebrated and adored by the public, despite being the Consort. Caroline had been physically refused entry to George IV’s Coronation ceremony and suffered mistreatment and inequalities from both her husband and press.
The work responds to the HIS with its site-specific references, but also captures the essence of the overall approach of the HIS to the concept of Liberty, in this instance recalling the relationship between the state and individuals, in a woman’s voice.
Doves Type was created at Hammersmith as a reinterpretation of hand drawn manuscript letters that preceded the creation of print. A bitter feud between the two partners Thomas James Cobden-Sanderson and Emery Walker, of Hammersmith’s celebrated Doves Press (named at the Dove’s Pub), lead to the protracted disposal of their unique metal type into London’s River Thames from Hammersmith Bridge. Robert Green, a contemporary designer, began to re-create the Doves type as a digital facsimile in 2013. In 2015, after searching the riverbed of the Thames near Hammersmith Bridge with help from the Port of London Authority, 150 pieces of the original type were recovered, which helped Green to refine the font. Doves font is being used in several Tideway commissions, in addition to this one.
The artist has conceived the commission to be an accessible work, redolent with current resonances and historic intrigues. The plaque is approx. 1.4m by 1.3m and will be cast in 3% silicon bronze and will be located on the existing pumping station wall or compound boundary wall to the south of the pumping station. This location has been chosen since it is closer to the river and Queen Caroline Street and is not obscured by the trees. The scale and simplicity of the proposal is appropriate to both the pumping station and largely residential context.
The artwork will enhance the public realm with the quote in a rich material, contrasting strongly with the Brutalist concrete surfaces of the pumping station. It will respect both the location and adjacent conservation area setting. The proposed text directly responds to the site and the River on a number of levels. The artist hopes that it may inspire and engage the curiosity of local community, as it has inspired and broaden the local knowledge of the artist.