Tuesday 9 July 2013

Barons Court


Even passing through Barons Court underground station, there are eye-catching features, including its unique benches and the apparently-missing apostrophe. Get off the train, take the stairs to ground level, and the station building is a real gem. 

It opened in 1905, designed by the District Railway's architect Harry Wharton Ford. Its light terracotta cladding is typical of his stations, and covers a metal frame. The wonderful lettering caught my eye immediately. 

More subtle, but also appealing, is the District's monogram at the corner of the building. 

The building houses several shops, all with stained glass in the upper windows. Its sinuous Art Nouveau flowers are a lovely complement to the decoration, particularly the equally elegant and curving lettering. 

 In the ticket hall, the Edwardian green tiling is another striking element of the decoration.

As for that apostrophe, it isn't really missing at all. When the original line was built in 1874, this area was still mostly fields, but the station became necessary when Sir William Palliser developed the estate with housing. A new development and a new station required a new name: Barons Court was given either to complement the nearby Earl's Court or, more likely, because of Palliser's connections to the Baronscourt Estate in Ireland. No barons, no possessive apostrophe!


Ralph Hancock said...

The pictures of this beautiful building make me think.

In 1905 the classical style was still alive but at its last gasp, and often going saggy and dreadful as you can see in many blocks of mansion flats in London. But here an architect deploys classical motifs effortlessly -- depressed arches, pilasters, cornices, broken pediments, balustrades, balls on plinths -- to create a pleasing composition. Every part of it is functionless, but it works visually.

And now contrast the awful Bomber Command memorial at Hyde Park Corner, done in a pedantically correct classical style but with wretched proportions: heavy in the middle, frail at the sides. I can't even be bothered to look up the poor architect's name, but he was using a style that he didn't understand. The link to the past has been broken, and it can't be reforged.

It's the same with the beautiful lettering. This was hand-drawn, not traced from a font: note the different Rs in BARONS COURT and DISTRICT RY. It's elegant but unselfconscious. People might try to emulate this now, but the result always has a poseur-ish quality and never looks natural.

Something important died in the twentieth century.

Hels said...

The Art Nouveau flowers and the curvy lettering are indeed a lovely part of the decoration. Am I right in guessing this was more popular in Paris' railway stations than in London's?

Mandy said...

It really is beautiful. I wonder how many people pass through every day and don't notice how ornate many parts of it are. I know I've never noticed it when passing through it, which I did today in fact.

CarolineLD said...

Thank you, Mandy. I managed to change trains there regularly without realising how lovely it is.

Ralph, that's really interesting. I wonder if it's almost a lack of confidence. Here, the elements are present but they are mixed with Art Nouveau flourishes, for example - nothing 'pedantically correct' about it.

Hels, there certainly is a lot more Art Nouveau decoration on the Paris metro - especially the famous entrances by Hector Guimard. I'm sure there are all sorts of reasons - not only the style's greater popularity in France, but also the fact that so much of the Parisian system was built around this time (it opened in 1900) - and by only two companies so there's more uniformity.