Smart Queen Caroline
by Sarah Staton, commissioned by Tideway
Sarah Staton was commissioned by Tideway to create an artwork for Hammersmith Pumping Station in response to Tideway’s historical Heritage Interpretation Strategy (HIS).
The theme for the West section of the tunnel is ‘Recreation to Industry: Society in Transition.’ Within this concept, the artist considered the site-specific heritage of 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.
Sarah Staton’s cast bronze artwork, titled Smart Queen Caroline, presents a quote from Queen Caroline, as pertinent now as it was 200 years ago, set in Doves Type:
‘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 married to the King. 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 typographer, 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 Type is being used in several Tideway commissions, in addition to this one.
Sarah conceived the commission to be an accessible work, redolent with current resonances and historic intrigues and hopes that it may inspire and engage the curiosity of the local community, as much as it did her. The plaque is cast in silicon bronze and is located on the existing Brutalist concrete surfaces of the pumping station wall, in order to be closer to the river and Queen Caroline Street.
The artist has said:
Prior to commissioning the artists, Tideway prepared extensive research into the historical context at each site. Taking this document as a starting point, I became fascinated by the flamboyant Queen Caroline who lived at Hammersmith, and appears to have been rather more popular with the British public than with her husband, or his extensive and powerful entourage. I was taken with Caroline’s resilience, independence and the progressive circle she ran with. Caroline’s canny perception shines through time, and I am delighted to re-present her words in the enduring format of the bronze plaque.