Description of Two Temple Place
Built to elaborate specifications by William Waldorf Astor, later first Viscount Astor, in 1895 as his residence and estate office on reclaimed land following completion of the Victoria Embankment in 1870, Two Temple Place has been acquired and preserved by the Bulldog Trust and offers a unique location in the heart of central London, overlooking the River Thames.
The architect chosen, and with difficulty obtained, by Lord Astor was the late John Loughborough Pearson, R.A., who brought unabated creative power to the making of the building and was given full liberty of expression, unfettered by considerations of finance.
Two Temple Place has two floors and a lower ground floor, and stands upon sixteen feet of concrete. Of Tudor design, sometimes with an infusion of Italian feeling in the detail, the property may be described as a casket built entirely of Portland stone. The carefully wrought and fully detailed weather vane, set high above the machicolated parapets of the building, at once attracts attention. It was intended by Lord Astor to be a representation in beaten copper of the caravel in which Columbus discovered America, and not, as has been stated, a miniature of the fur-trading vessel which helped to establish the wealth of the House of Astor a century and more ago. This gilded weather vane was executed by J. Starkie Gardner, the well-known English metal worker, who was responsible for the metal work both inside and outside the building. The clear glass windows are models of leaded quarry-glazing, the upper range being flanked by oriels. The stonework from the twin chimneys downwards was meticulously carved by Hitch, and is completed by the grilles and screens of ornamental ironwork.
The fine iron gates lead into a paved forecourt, with a delightful lawn and arcaded boundary wall on the one side, and on the other the Portico, by W. S. Frith, with its balustraded stone steps leading up to massive entrance doors. The steps are flanked on either side by stone pedestals bearing bronze lamp standards, modelled by Frith, which were exhibited at the Royal Academy, and are constantly being sketched by artists and others. Each of these two finely-proportioned lamp standards is crowned by a miniature ship, whilst around the base the figures of little boys playfully represent the marvels of electric illumination, telegraphy and telephony. These figures now find themselves looking towards the headquarters of a yet greater wonder, that of communication by wireless. The entrance doors are of solid bronze, embellished with delicately-worked mouldings, and are surmounted by a magnificent columned and pedimented stone screen, on the centre panel of which are carved the Arms of the Astor family. The doors lead past fine inner swing doors of bronze into a stone-lined Vestibule, which presents a good example of early Renaissance carving, a style of architecture which is followed in some other parts of the building.