From Capper Street to Tate Britain

You have probably never heard of Capper Street in WC1, unless you work there or nearby. I say that without patronizing in the least as I had never heard of it either until this morning. You will find it on the map here.

Shropshire House in Capper Street
Shropshire House in Capper Street
Not the photo I would have wished to take but Capper Street is too
narrow for a good angle

We were out and about today and entertained a vague intention of visiting the Tate Britain and having a look at the Turner exhibition there. How that means that we were strolling around in Fitzrovia, I couldn’t say, but we were. Or more precisely, in that bit of it often known, half jokingly and half fondly, as the Gower Peninsula, because it lies between Gower Street and the Tottenham Court Road.

Shropshire House
Shropshire House
The other end. Still no good angles, though

Just by chance, we spotted Shropshire House and went to take a look. Or, to be honest, Tigger saw it and went for a look and I followed to see what she was so interested in. We both agreed it was something special.

Doorway
Doorway
Well, one of two, actually, but I chose this one as it was the one
with the greenery above it which, though neglected, added a touch
of colour

It was at this point that I met the Young Man in the Hard Hat (YMHH hereafter). He was heading into the building where, he told us, he was working. More particularly, he said, he was “bashing out the windows.” (This was part of the work of refurbishing the building.)

Pleasing details
Pleasing details
Asked what I liked about the building I said the font and the curvy feature

YMHH was intrigued as to what we were up to and gobsmacked to learn that we liked the building. “It’s just a building” was his considered opinion. I was asked to explain what, exactly, I liked about it. Well, for starters, I liked the font in which the name was written – unusual but pleasing, and legible, unlike some awful modern fonts.

The curvy balcony
The curvy balcony
Not really a balcony, I suppose, but a whimsical feature that works quite well

Tigger, who had been photographing further down the street, arrived as I was explaining that I liked the two curvy pseudo-balcony features which contrasted with the rectangular plan of the rest of the building. Tigger said it made her think of a cloud with a flash of lightning underneath it. (Look at the above picture and you’ll see what she meant.) They are delightfully whimsical on an otherwise rectangular background (except for the unusual curved end – see the second photo from the top).

Back to bashing out windows
Back to bashing out windows
We later saw YMHH on an upper floor carrying on with his destructive labours

I don’t think we managed to convince YMHH, who went on his way, though cheerfully enough, muttering something like “I wish I could see what you see in a building.” Later, as we prepared to leave, we heard a shout: it was YHMM calling to us from an upper floor where he was once more bashing out the windows.

Blue front door
Blue front door
We liked these arched doorways in Huntley Street but were
amused by the height at which to knockers were fixed – you would
have to be quite tall to reach them

I know nothing about the building, though I am guessing that it was built in the 1930s – it has that feel about it. The style is indeterminate, a one-off. It’s quirky but for my money, it works. I hope the refurbishment is successful and that the new tenants will enjoy working in it.

Doorway, Gordon Mansions putto
Gordon Mansions
I liked this doorway with scallop shell decorations and figures holding up the lintel

Also in Huntley Street is a building bearing the name Gordon Mansions. There are two doorways, on opposite sides of the street, and this one has scallop shell decorations over the door. Both have a pair of figures holding up the lintel or narrow canopy.

Putti and scallop shells
Putti and scallop shells
Are the figures putti or caryatids or atlases?

These figures interested me because they seem rather ambiguous. At first sight they look like putti, but these usually have wings, which these figures lack. They are holding up part of the building like caryatids, but caryatids are female figures. There is a male equivalent of the caryatid, called an atlas, but I’m not sure a child figure qualifies as an atlas which sounds more like a muscular adult figure. Not that this really matters, as I think the doorways possess their own logic and harmony.

Staircase, Clore Gallery
Staircase, Clore Gallery
I like the use of bright colours in this area

A couple of buses took us to the Tate Britain. Our intention was to visit the Turner Collection in the Clore Gallery. We tried to do this back in April but had had to leave as soon as we arrived because the fire alarms had sounded (see Pimlico, Millbank and St Paul’s).

The Romantics
The Romantics
One of the rooms in the exhibition of the Romantics

At the Tate you are allowed to take photos except in the exhibitions for which you pay for tickets. Flash photography is not allowed but apart from that you can click away happily.

Dome
Dome
I am fascinated by glazed domes like this one

Much of Turner’s work exhibited here is experimental. Perhaps it is interesting and important historically but it does nothing for me. I prefer those of his works which are more conventional, “proper paintings”, as you might say. Fortunately, there were paintings of this type by Turner and by others.

Stained glass
Stained glass
Stained glass window on a staircase

Though it was permissible to take photos of the paintings, that didn’t interest me. I prefer to look at the actual paintings and then take photos of the building.

Perspectives
Perspectives
The building is elegant and provides some appealing perspectives

The art works are what people come to see and the building allows them to be exhibited to their best advantage but it is worth looking at the building itself and reflecting on its graceful curves and elegant design.

Concave mirror Concave mirror
Concave mirror
Concave mirror
Fascinating but is it art? And does it matter anyway?

This concave mirror proved fascinating. It probably attracted more people than any other work in the gallery. From a certain angle, a figure reflected in the mirror seemed to stand out in front of it in 3D.

The lion and the unicorn
The lion and the unicorn
An intricate and imaginative reworking of the Royal coat of arms

Apart from not liking some of the works of Turner I enjoyed the visit. The Tate is a wonderful place and it adopts a sensible approach, allowing photography and providing floating curators whose role is to answer questions rather than check that visitors behave themselves.

Sculpted lintel, Ridgmount Gardens
Sculpted lintel
Handsome carved face in Ridgmount Gardens, Gower Peninsula

Copyright © 2011 SilverTiger, https://tigergrowl.wordpress.com, All rights reserved.

About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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4 Responses to From Capper Street to Tate Britain

  1. One would hope Shropshire House is listed? IMHO it is the pedestrians that need hard hats, bloody lethal knocking out window over a footpath!

    Like

    • SilverTiger says:

      As far as I can tell, it is not listed.

      You have a point about falling glass, though to be honest, I saw none on the ground and received none on my unhard hat while taking photos.

      Like

  2. WOL says:

    I like the lion and unicorn. I think the art decco building was featured in a TV dramatization of one of the Hercule Poirot stories by A.Christie.

    Like

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