We arrived in London in March in the midst of the “Beast From The East”, the extreme weather front that gripped the UK for a week or so coming straight from the Siberian Steppes. It was minus two and blowing a blizzard when we landed belatedly at Heathrow Airport on the Friday night, after our original flight from Hong Kong was cancelled.
We had just a couple of full days to spend with our daughter Mlle in London and with the weather remaining bitterly cold and the pavements icy with the snow and frost, we didn’t fancy spending too much time outdoors. I’ve already written a quick account of the weekend whilst on the road here. However we did brave the elements and in fact managed to pack quite a lot into our flying visit to the capital.
On the Sunday, when a slow thaw had set in, Mlle suggested heading down to the Temple area of the city for lunch at the Temple Brew House in Essex Street before taking in an exhibition. The moody blues and greys down by the Thames don’t really depict the full story – it was absolutely freezing even for Mlle who is more acclimatised than us by now to the cold!
The Temple Brew House proved an inspired choice. During the week it must be packed with workers from the legal offices and chambers nearby but on this cold Sunday lunchtime it was more or less deserted and the warming pies and drinks were just what we needed. I did manage to get a glass of wine though Monsieur and Mlle sampled some of the many craft beers on offer (well not too many I should hasten to add!).
Two Temple Place is just a few minutes walk away from the Temple Brew House. An imposing building near the Victoria Embankment with views towards the Thames, it is now owned by a private trust, the Bulldog Trust, and is open to the public at certain times of the year for special exhibitions. Mlle works in the music PR industry and a number of her clients are in the jazz world so it seemed serendipitous that the latest exhibition, “Rhythm & Reaction, The Age of Jazz in Britain” was on at the time of our visit.
Not only was the exhibition free (though donations were welcome), it gave us an opportunity to look round this impressive, albeit unusual, piece of architecture. Originally known as Astor House, it was built in 1895 for the wealthy American-born William Waldorf Astor, businessman, attorney, politician and newspaper publisher, who was apparently so scared of potential kidnapping attempts that he relocated himself and family to England (deemed safer than the USA). Constructed by John Loughborough Pearson the exterior is built from Portland stone whilst the interior is decorated with heavy wooden panels and stained glass windows – a bit reminiscent of something out of a gothic novel meeting an Elizabethan Tudor mansion!
Apparently used as both an office and living quarters by Astor and his family, it also housed some of his extensive artworks and certainly provided an interesting backdrop for the jazz history exhibition. Thoughtfully curated, the exhibition took us through the history of jazz in the Britain of the 20s, 30s, 40s and later, as well as providing a fascinating tour of the opulent mansion at the same time.
I had to restrain myself in the lovely gift shop, which was selling books, cards, prints, toiletries as well as other gifts – luggage allowances being of the essence when travelling though I can’t say I came away totally empty handed! We headed out from the cosy warmth inside the building to brave the crisp, cold air of a wintry London late afternoon.
Two Temple Place is one of those hidden gems and it’s well worth looking out for exhibitions or other events there if you happen to be in London.
Copyright © 2018 Rosemary Thomas Le Chic En Rose. All rights reserved