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Two Temple Place

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  • 1 Review on “Two Temple Place”

    • Mary E F
      7 years ago

      Slightly back from Victoria Embankment near Temple Station stands an imposing building with quite a large forecourt. This is Two Temple Place (not just number 2!). Built by William Waldorf Astor in 1895, it was designed as an office with a flat above (although it cannot have been a cosy place to live), providing a UK home and one in which he thought his children would be safer from kidnapping. This is not the place to discuss the fascinating (and lengthy) history of the Astors – the founder of the dynasty, John Jacob Astor, who made his fortune through real estate, Nancy Astor, the first female MP etc – or how they linked the US and the UK. Full information is easily available online and elsewhere.

      One quirk the Astors shared with many other extremely wealthy people was the need (desire?) to parade their riches by acquiring several homes, often in different countries. Hever Castle and Cliveden, scene of the Profumo scandal in 1963, and the Waldorf Astoria Hotel are other examples for the Astors.

      Two Temple Place was built in a pseudo early Elizabethan style, with many referrals to art and literature of this period and others. Around the landing are scenes and characters from Shakespeare, while others from history (eg Pocahontas, Machiavelli) and fiction (eg The Three Musketeers) adorn different parts of the building. Together with the decorated glass windows, a lot of marble and mahogany, works of art by notable artists (eg Frith and Frampton) the overall impression is perhaps astonishment. Clearly, money was seemingly unlimited. Was there an overall plan? Perhaps with the actual building, but it is difficult to feel there was with the decoration, more a question of “everything goes” – a good helping of self-indulgence and lack of selection, but what a fascinating place to visit! Full restoration was carried out following considerable damage by a flying bomb in 1944.

      After being sold by the Astors in the early 19th century there have been various owners, currently the Bulldog Trust, a charitable organisation.

      Exhibitions have been held in the building for 100 years for about three months in the early part of the year, always from art in regional collections. Whether an exhibition is of interest, the place is well worth visiting; public access is denied for the rest of the year. End the tour by sampling the interesting little restaurant, the food from which is eaten in a number of small rooms nearby (ex-offices perhaps?).

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