Weekend Wanderings

Last weekend I finally got around to visiting Two Temple Place, William Astor’s mansion on the Victoria Embankment. It’s a gorgeous Victorian take on Jacobean architecture right next to Temple tube station, and I had absolutely no idea it existed until I got an email about a new William Morris exhibition being held there. The Bulldog Trust, which owns the building, has decided to use some of the space to display collections from regional museums that would normally be inaccessible to Londoners, and I’m really excited about what could be coming up next! The William Morris exhibition’s theme is ‘Story, Memory, Myth’ and explores how Morris told stories through his art. They have some exquisite embroidered panels, wallpaper and fabric samples, stained glass and books that all come together to demonstrate Morris’ profound interest in the Medieval world and his remarkable talent at creating designs that transport the viewer into this alternate reality of an idealised past.

The inside of the mansion was the real draw, though, and slightly overpowered what they had on display. The entrance hall, with its stained glass ceiling, galleried landings and ornately carved staircase, was breathtaking. I could have stared at it all day! Once you have entered the first exhibition room, you find yourself wandering through cavernous, faux Jacobean banqueting rooms complete with exquisite panelling, beautiful, incredibly detailed stained glass and painted ceilings that will have you craning your neck for a closer look. It’s an incredible building that Astor obviously spared no expense on creating exactly to his specifications. A lavish idealisation of a historic British stately home slap bang in the middle of London and with commanding views across the Thames, it’s a unique place and I can highly recommend a visit.

Once we’d finished looking around, my friend and I wandered along the river, had lunch on the Southbank and then went to see The Artist. I was sceptical about watching a silent film, but I needn’t have been – it’s absolutely marvellous. I found it really interesting how easy it is to tell a story without any dialogue; so much can be told through expressions, and the actors are mesmerising in their ability to bring their characters to life without uttering a word. The story itself is both a fascinating look at the world of early Hollywood and a heartbreaking portrayal of a man’s fall from grace, and I think I cried and laughed in equal measure. It’s an exquisite work of art and I urge you all to go and see it!!

In other news, I am still reading and highly enjoying Mansfield Park, and I have been intrigued and entertained by all the different opinions flying around in the comments. Who knew a Jane Austen novel could cause such heated controversy! If you’d like to join in, please feel free to – I will be writing more about it over the course of the following week, so there will be plenty of opportunities to air your thoughts!


  1. The Morris exhibit sounds fascinating! There’s one going on at the Musée d’Orsay here in Paris with a similar theme which I really want to go and see: it’s called “Beauty, morality, and voluptuousness in Oscar Wilde’s England” and from what I’ve read, it features many paintings by the Pre-Raphaelites. I was lucky enough, moreover, to get some books on the Pre-Raphaelite poets, most especially the Rossettis, for Christmas…

    1. Charles Baker says:

      Best hurry to the Musee d’Orsay; that exhibition closes tomorrow.

    2. bookssnob says:

      I hope you manage to make it to the exhibition in time, Florence! It looks really interesting!

      1. Ugh. Well, of course, I missed it – I don’t know why I thought I had until the end of the month 😦

  2. Joanne says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing The Artist, it’s not on at my local cinema – I hope I haven’t missed it.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I think it might be on limited release but it only came out a couple of weeks ago, so it should still be showing somewhere near you…hope you can catch it!

  3. Jenny says:

    I’m glad you liked The Artist! I’ve been wanting to see it forever, but I didn’t have a chance before Christmas. I’m seeing it this Sunday. Very excited!

    1. bookssnob says:

      You’re going to love it Jenny!

  4. You can only imagine how much I enjoyed this post, Rachel. The mansion, the artwork; how thrilling to visit Two Temple Place. I admire your get-up-and-go and willingness to venture out and see all that there is to see.

    I hope to see The Artist soon. Thanks for the review of it.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Glad you enjoyed it, Penny! It’s a great place. Thank you – I do my best to see as much as I can on the weekends – there is so much to explore!

      Hope you see it – I’m sure you’d love it!

  5. m says:

    I knew you’d love Temple Place. Isn’t it amazing? I’d walked past it so many times and had no idea of what was inside.

    1. bookssnob says:

      I loved it Mary! I can’t believe I didn’t know about it before. I wonder what will be the next exhibition?

  6. Daniel says:

    William Astor also had a summer “cottage” in Newport, near where I grew up. A gorgeous mansion on a rocky coastline. One if his daughters was known as the ‘Alabastor Astor’ because she would add the teensiest bit of arsenic to her tea to maintain her pale visage…

    and I’m DYING to see ‘The Artist!’ I just know it will be up my toe tappin’ pre-Code era alley!

    1. bookssnob says:

      I think I’ve been there, Daniel…I love Newport and really want to go back. Walking along the coastal path there is one of my most treasured memories!

      Oh the Artist is RIGHT up your street!! You’ll love it!

  7. Victoria says:

    Two Temple Place sounds lovely but I have to admit to a wry smile at the idea of Londoners missing out on regional works of art. 🙂 Living as I do in the north of England, with increasingly expensive train fares between me and the capital’s incredible wealth of galleries, museums and cultural venues, I wish someone would bring London’s art to me. Oh for an outpost of the National Gallery or the British Museum in York, or Leeds, or Newcastle!

    1. Joanne says:

      I lived in London for a couple of years when I was in my twenties Victoria, and I remember the joy of opening the review pages of the Sunday papers and knowing I could actually go and see the exhibitions and shows that were reviewed. No such joy now that I’m back on Teesside!

    2. bookssnob says:

      I know, I’m sorry! But there is a lot of good stuff in the ‘regions’ – and the V&A has two regional outposts now! I think the idea is also to show works of lesser known artists or lesser known works of well known artists, that tend to be in smaller and less accessible museums. Though I know we’re not short of art and culture down here…and I do sympathise with those who live outside of London. I was just saying this to my friend yesterday – there is too much focus on London and too much IN London – cultural institutions, company headquarters, etc should be spread out more to other cities, making them more desirable to live in and reducing the massive overpopulation of the South East…but sadly I don’t think it’s going to happen any time soon!

  8. As we’re about to order some William Morris design wallpaper I think we’d best go to the exhibition. Thank you for writing about. Hoping this weekend is just as fun x

    1. m says:

      I’m envious! After seeing Temple Place, I was on a bit of a Morris kick and visited Kelmscott House as I hadn’t been there for years. They had some gorgeous modern papers on display … horribly expensive, of course.

      1. bookssnob says:

        I must go there, Mary!

    2. bookssnob says:

      Oooh lucky you! What pattern? Hope you manage to make it to the museum, I know you’d love it! x

  9. Stacey says:

    What a wonderful way to spend a weekend! I love to wander through historical buildings. And, to combine it with a rarely-seen exhibit is like winning the cultural lottery in my mind. Lucky, you!

    Here in UT, we have some great historical buildings, especially from the Mormon settlers. At some point, I’d like to see the Lion House in Salt Lake City (where Brigham Young had all of his plural wives living during his time as the Prophet). I’m not LDS myself, but the history is truly fascinating to me.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Yes, I am lucky to have such brilliant places at my fingertips!

      I bet there is a lot of fascinating history there – I really want to visit Utah, actually – I have never made it much beyond the East Coast sadly. Utah and Montana are especially on my list!

  10. Lucy says:

    I adore your posts about London! I lived in Abingdon for a year and a half when I was younger and fell in love with England. A couple of years ago I visited London and I’m itching to go back! So much history and culture in one city – it really is breathtaking!

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Lucy! London is an amazing city indeed – I was lucky to be born and bred here! Hope you can make it back to explore soon!

  11. Janet (Country Mouse) says:

    Such a lovely weekend you have had. I love the way that you describe enjoying the details of the building. So often people miss the best part as they hurry on to get to the “main event”.
    I would like to see The Artist as well.

    1. bookssnob says:

      Thanks Janet, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Do go and see The Artist – it’s one of the best films I’ve seen in a long while!

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