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Thursday, 3 November 2011

Exhibitions - William Morris:Story, Memory, Myth - Two Temple Place

Star rating – 10/10

Every once in a while you stumble cross a hidden gem that is an absolute joy to behold, and such a small but perfectly formed building has been hiding away in the heart of London near the Thames’ Victoria Embankment for over a century.

Two Temple Place is a small gothic mansion built by rich American business William Waldorf Astor, later Viscount Astor, as his English pied-à-terre in 1895. Designed by architect John Loughborough Pearson, it oozes wealth and opulence. Astor filled its small but delightful spaces with his sense of fun and his literary favourites. The Three Musketeers adorn the exquisite mahogany staircase, and characters from Shakespeare and Arthurian legend decorate the rooms. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Astor used it until his death in 1920, when it was sold, badly damaged in the Second World War, then restored and used as offices. The Bulldog Trust acquired it and have until now used it exclusively to hold private functions as a way of raising money to enable its doors to be opened again to the public.

It is currently hosting a great exhibition by William Morris, who had nothing to do with the venue, and as a socialist would probably have hated all it stood for. But his beautiful and intricate prints and designs look wonderful in this setting. As well as works by Morris there are Pre Raphaelite treasures by such as Rossetti; and beautiful illustrations by Edward Burne-Jones.

Two Temple Place is stunning - and free – so unless you work in a firm rich enough to hold your annual Christmas Party there – get yourself down there and enjoy its unique appeal while you can.

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