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!