Two Temple Place is a fascinating building – it looks rather like a castle outside, built of Portland stone with a crenellated roof, stone carvings by Nathaniel Hitch, stone windows and a magnificent golden galleon weather vane of the Santa Maria, Christopher Columbus’ ship. The weathervane is significant in that it represents the route of William Waldorf Astor’s ancestor, John Jacob Astor and the links between Europe and the US. The house was built for William Waldorf Astor by John Loughborough Pearson in 1895, and was intended to be used as the Astor Estate Office, with an upper flat for Astor’s own use.
Inside there is a stunning Cosmati pavement and fantastic woodwork, as in this wonderful staircase on the right. When the Astor family sold the house it was owned by various businesses and damaged by a bomb in 1944.
The building is now owned by the Bulldog Trust, and in 2011 opened as the first London building specifically to show publicly owned art from the UK regional collections.
The exhibition Cotton to Gold, co-curated by Dr Cynthia Johnstone, IES, University of London, and Dr Jack Hartnell, Courtauld Institute, shows the extraordinary collections of the industrial magnates of the north-west of England, the home of cotton manufacture. During the 19th century wealthy cotton mill owners spent their huge wealth on a rather eclectic assortment of items including Roman coins, Tiffany glass, medæval manuscripts, Byzantine icons, ivories and even preserved beetles! Three publicly owned museums in the north-west – Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery, Haworth Art Gallery (Accrington) and Towneley Hall (Burnley) have joined together to present the best artefacts from these great collections.
There will also be mediæval manuscripts on show, mainly Books of Hours. These were manuscript books for the lay person who could then follow the Offices of the Day in their own homes. In Psalms it says ‘seven times a day will I praise the Lord’, and indeed this is what happened in religious foundations, starting with lauds or matins at dawn, prime (6 o’clock), terce (9 o’clock), sext (noon), none (3 o’clock), vespers (sunset) and compline (9 o’clock) followed.
If you want to know more about how the manuscripts were made, then I am running a hands-on workshop and giving a talk. More details about these and the exhibition here.
Exhibition Opening Times: Monday, Thursday–Saturday: 10am–4:30pm Wednesday Late: 10am–9pm, Sunday: 11am–4:30pm, Closed on Tuesday. Admission Free