Friday, 12 April 2013

Visit to Two Temple Place and HQS Wellington Friday 12th April

Two Temple Place is a magnificent 19th century building built for William Waldorf Astor  – his London town house complementing the Cliveden Estate on the Thames near Maidenhead. The building itself on the Embankment is one of London's hidden architectural gems, an extraordinary late Victorian mansion with fine features befitting of its American owner’s wealth and status.  Access is free and there is a fantastic exhibition of Cornish paintings on view.

HMS Wellington as she looked in 1943
HQS Wellington moored nearby at Temple is a familiar sight on the river, having been there since 1948, sitting right on the boundary between the Cities of Westminster and London.  Deceptively, like HMS Belfast she is a warship, having once sported guns and depth charges, but now painted white and without weapons her original role is less obvious - in fact she served most of the Second World War protecting vital Atlantic convoys.  She is a listed Historic Ship and nowadays known to us in the livery as the floating livery hall of the Master Mariners and also providing an office to the Scriveners.  However she also forms an important role in raising public awareness of the history of the British Merchant Navy, impressing young people with an understanding of our nations reliance on the sea for our trade and economic prosperity.
An exhibition is due to be opened on 8th May by our own Honorary Freeman, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the role of the Merchant Navy in the Battle of the Atlantic and work is well in progress on preparing this.
As HQS Wellington today
As a livery hall and the venue for a wonderful lunch with the ladies of the Tylers and Bricklayer’s Company to which I had been invited, HQS Wellington comes as something of a surprise.  The ship is a bit like the Tardis. The Court Room, as it is called, is a fully panelled room of some considerable size under the waterline with glass fronted display cases on both sides and a high ceiling.  It is a room in size quite befitting an ocean liner rather than a small escort sloop – but uses the very generous space once occupied by its engines and boilers.   Only the occasional slopping of water against the sides of the ship give a clue to where we are, deep in the bowels and under the Thames.  It was interesting to note that the Master Master Mariner (no, not a typo) has the perk of a magnificently sized cabin on deck, providing useful and spacious accommodation and private entertainment space during a year of office.   The Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Princess Royal have all at various times been Master, as has King Edward VIII whilst Prince of Wales.  Whether they too had use of the cabin I do not know.
I would urge all to try to visit this ship during the exhibition.  It is open to the public on Sundays and Mondays from May 8th until the end of the year.   

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