Apsley House, London

Apsley House, London

Our tour starts with Apsley House, known as Number One, London. This beautiful building stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic roundabout in the centre of which stands the Wellington Arch. It is a grade I listed building. The house is now run by English Heritage and is open to the public as a museum and art gallery, although the 8th Duke of Wellington still uses the building as a part-time residence. It is sometimes referred to as the Wellington Museum. It is perhaps the only preserved example of an English aristocratic town house from its period. Standard practice has been to maintain the rooms as much as possible in their original style and décor. Among other things, the house contains the 1st Duke's collection of paintings, porcelain, the silver centrepiece made for the Duke in Portugal, as well as multiple sculptures and furniture. Antonio Canova's heroic marble nude of “Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker”, made in 1802-10 and depicting the Emperor holding a gilded Nike in his right hand, stands 3.45 metres high to the raised left hand holding a staff. The statue was once exhibited at the Louvre, Paris and was bought by the British Government for Wellington in 1816; it now stands in Adam's Stairwell.

The house was originally built in red brick by Robert Adam between 1771 and 1778 for Lord Apsley, the Lord Chancellor, who gave the house its name. Some of the original interiors have survived, including the semi-circular Staircase, the Drawing Room with its apsidal end, and the Portico Room behind the giant Corinthian portico added by Wellington. The house was given the popular nickname of Number One, London, since it was the first house passed by visitors who travelled from the countryside after the toll gates at Knightsbridge. It was originally part of a contiguous line of great houses on Piccadilly, demolished to widen Park Lane; its official address remains 149 Piccadilly. In 1807 the house was purchased by Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, the elder brother of Sir Arthur Wellesley, but in 1817 financial difficulties forced him to sell it to his famous brother, by then the Duke of Wellington, who needed a London base from which to pursue his new career in politics.

Wellington employed the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt to carry out renovations in two phases: in the first, begun in 1819, he added a three-storey extension to the north east, housing a State Dining Room, bedrooms and dressing rooms. The second phase, started after Wellington had become Prime Minister in 1828, included a new staircase and the "Waterloo Gallery" on the west side of the house. The Waterloo Gallery is, of course, named after the Duke's famous victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. A special banquet is still served annually to celebrate the date — 18 June 1815. The Duke's equestrian statue can be seen across the busy road, cloaked and watchful, the plinth guarded at each corner by an infantryman. This statue was cast from guns captured at the battle. Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington, gave the house and its most important contents to the nation in 1947, but by the Wellington Museum Act 1947 the right of the family to occupy just over half the house was preserved "so long as there is a Duke of Wellington". The family apartments are now on the north side of the house, concentrated on the second floor. The magnificent collection of 200 paintings includes 83 acquired by the first Duke after the Battle of Vitoria in 1813; the paintings were in Joseph Bonaparte's baggage train and were originally from the Spanish royal collection; they were presented to Wellington by King Ferdinand VII of Spain.

Operating hours: Monday to Friday closed; Saturday and Sunday: 11 am – 5 pm. Entry fee: adult - £6.50; child (5-15 years) - £3.90; family (2 adults, 3 children) - £21.30.
Sight description based on wikipedia

This sight is featured in a self-guided walking tour of London, England within the mobile app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" which can be downloaded from iTunes App Store or Google Play. Please download the app to your mobile phone or tablet for travel directions for visiting this sight. The app turns your mobile device to a personal tour guide and it works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

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Apsley House on Map

Sight Name: Apsley House
Sight Location: London, England
Sight Type: Attraction/Landmark
Guide(s) containing this sight: Kensington/Knightsbridge Walk  

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