Facing the Embankment not that far from Temple station lies one of London’s best kept secrets. Two Temple Place is the former estate office of the wealthy American tycoon, William Waldorf Astor.
Astor House (as its more commonly known) was built from portland stone by renowned architect, John Loughborough Pearson in 1895, and features impressive sculpture work by English craftsmen: William Silver Frith, Sir George Frampton RA, Nathaniel Hitch and Thomas Nicholls.
J. Starkie Gardner was responsible for all the metalwork seen both on the exterior (including the weather vane ship of Columbus’ Santa Maria) and interior of the property.
A rather unassuming Victorian neo-gothic exterior hides the opulent furnishes within, the jewel in the crown being the impressive oak staircase framed by a jaw-dropping stained-glass ceiling. One could stare at it all day.
‘All for one and one for all, united we stand divided we fall.’
Statuettes of characters from The Three Musketeers greet you from the banisters of the hall’s oak staircase, a nod to Astor’s favorite book by Alexandre Dumas.These wonderful figurines were carved from mahogany by Thomas Nicholls.
The hall’s marble flooring and adjacent fireplace are both made in the Cosmsati style, akin to that in Westminster Abbey.
More impressive carvings can be found in the adjacent room to the hallway, but my favourite feature here has to be the two stained-glass windows at either side of the room. They are simply spellbinding.
The door to the Great Hall (Astor’s private office) is also made of rich mahogany, and features nine silver gilt panels designed by Sir George Frampton, each depicting a heroine from the Arthurian Legend.
Two Temple Place isn’t open to the public as often as one might like, except for special exhibitions and Open House Weekends, but when it is, be sure to visit and explore this majestic architectural wonder.