London is full of unexpected treats and an impromptu visit with a friend to Two Temple Place on a grey winter Sunday was no exception.
Previously known as Astor House, this incredible building was commissioned by William Waldorf Astor, the founder of New York’s Waldorf Astoria, in the late 19th Century as a home and office away from home. It is now owned by The Bulldog Trust, a charitable trust giving ‘financial and advisory assistance to charities’ and the building is also used for functions and exhibitions.
The current exhibition, ‘Cotton to Gold: Extraordinary Collections of the Industrial North West’, features the eclectic collections of several Lancashire mill owners who spent their riches amassing collections of exceptionally rare manuscripts coins and paintings, along with exotic objects of wonder such as preserved beetles and even a Peruvian mummy, before gifting them to local institutions both during and after their lives. These stunning collections, now owned by several Lancashire public museums and on loan for the first time, sit so perfectly in this beautiful building with its stained glass vista windows and roof, wood panelled rooms and intricately carved staircase.
Looking strangely but equally at home, as you enter the exhibition, is a cotton loom – a stark reminder of where the money to buy all of these incredible objects came from. It’s hard to believe that such a large and important piece of British industry has now all but vanished.
Cotton to Gold: Extraordinary Collections of the Industrial North West runs until 19th April 2015 at Two Temple Place. The exhibition is free to enter and open every day apart from Tuesdays. I have also been told the cafe is rather good, and as I am still thinking about the spectacular looking Battenberg I spied through the doorway, I suspect it is!