Two Temple Place

London WC2

Built in 1895, for William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919), 1st Viscount Astor, the multi-millionaire from New York who became disillusioned with his native land, finally declaring, "America is not a fit place for a gentleman to live". On re-establishing himself in England, he commissioned John Loughborough Pearson (1817-1897) - considered the founder of modern Gothic-Revival architecture - to build him this mansion on London's Victoria Embankment overlooking the River Thames. After his death in 1919, his children sold it to Sun Life of Canada and it continued to be used for offices until it was acquired by the Bulldog Trust. From 2011, it opened to the public as the first London venue to specifically showcase publicly owned art from UK regional collections....

This house is best associated with...

William Waldorf Astor

The Rt. Hon. "Willy" Astor, 1st Viscount Astor, of Hever Castle, Kent


Much of the decor and stained glass at Two Temple Place (long known as the Astor House) is significant in that it links Astor with the progression of his family from Germany to America and then back to Europe again. For example, the gold weather vane above the crenellated roofline features a replica of the Santa Maria, the ship in which Columbus sailed to America. Also notable is the gilt frieze in the Great Hall that depicts 54-carvings of various historical and literary figures of importance to Astor, eg., Pocahontas, Machiavelli, Bismark, Anne Boleyn, Marie Antoinette, etc. Throughout the house there are depictions and references to The Three Musketeers, Astor's favorite childhood book.

Despite first impressions, this was not Astor's home in London. Known as the Astor Estate Office, it was in fact the nerve-center of his vast property and business empire, though he did keep an apartment on the upper floor for late nights. Having rented the sprawling and  historic Lansdowne House for two years, after 1892 his London bolthole was a 67,000 square foot mansion at 18 Carlton House Terrace overlooking St James' Park. His country seat was initially Cliveden before purchasing Hever Castle in 1903 and two years later he bought the Villa Astor on Italy's Amalfi Coast for some winter sun. 

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Contributed by Mark Meredith on 31/03/2020 and last updated on 04/11/2020.


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