Report by Rutger Beelaerts on our private guided tour on Monday 3 October .
On Monday October 3 a select group of ANS members met for a guided tour of Two Temple Place. It was my second outing with the Anglo-Netherlands Society since joining this summer. The first one was Legal London – The Inns of Court guided walk on Thursday 25 August, which finished at the Temple Inns of Court across the street from Two Temple Place. Hence, it felt as a logical continuation of our journey through London.
Two Temple Place was built for the American businessman and politician William Waldorf Astor as his estate office at the end of the 19th century. He was one of the wealthiest people on earth at the time. He made most of his money with real estate in New York. However, he had clearly not felt in love with the city and moved to the UK to avoid it. In his new home country, he needed this estate office to manage several properties in the UK and his business interests in the USA. He had good taste. The result is definitely a gem on the Victoria Embankment.
He picked a secluded location between the Thames, which was recently narrowed to make room for a sewer and the District Line (which we can still appreciate today) and the Strand. I like learning these facts about my new hometown. The building is on the eastern corner of the Victoria Embankment Gardens. It was built is neo-Gothic style, which is easy to recognise. On top, it has a golden sailing boat as wind vane, which you can see better in a neighbouring office window than from the street.
Indoors, you can admire the woodworks. There is no furniture, because the space is often let for events and used for exhibitions. Downstairs we started in the clerks’ office. Even though it was built at the time of Dickens, it felt very different: light and spacious with a beautiful view of the Thames. You get the impression that he treated his staff well.
To get to his own offices upstairs, we used an amazing wooden staircase. Along the stairs there were statutes of the Three Musketeers and on top freezes of four Shakespeare plays. Admittedly we needed some help to guess which ones. Upstairs we first viewed his more intimate private office. Through a secret door, which was not made for a Dutchman of 1.98m, we entered his grandiose public office. He had paid a lot of attention to detail. Unfortunately, this room was partly damaged during the war, when the office building next door was bombed. Luckily most was restored.
During the visit I failed to discover any connection with The Netherlands. Clearly, that is not required for ANS events. I can highly recommend visiting Two Temple Place. You can either book your own private tour or visit one of the exhibitions from January through April see: https://twotempleplace.org/
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From the announcement in the September e-news :
Completed in 1895, Two Temple Place is a dazzling neo-Gothic gem on the Victoria Embankment, that combines the grandeur of a London mansion with the intimacy of a private home. It was designed by gothic revivalist architect, John Loughborough Pearson, and commissioned by and built for American businessman and politician William Waldorf Astor, as his estate office. Join us for an interesting guided tour and learn about the fascinating history behind the place, the Astor family story and the building’s stunning ornamentation. Cost £15 p.p. including a 60 minutes guided tour and admin fee.