Hyde Park Corner,
London W1J 7NT
Tel: 020 7499 5676
About Apsley House
Apsley House, is one of the capital’s finest Georgian buildings and a fascinating family attraction. Located at the southeast of Hyde Park Corner, Robert Adam’s brick design for Apsley House was built 1771-78 as the home of Baron Apsley, Earl of Bathurst.
Also known as No. 1, London, because it was the first residence after the tollgate at Knightsbridge, Apsley House was occupied by the Wellesleys from 1807, first Richard, then, from 1817, his younger brother, Arthur, the first Duke of Wellington. It was given to the nation in 1947 by his family, who retain private rooms, making Apsley House the only English Heritage site in which the owner’s family still reside – not something you’ll find at your average family attraction!
The history of Wellington’s tenure at Apsley House is related in exquisite displays at the family attraction, including their development of the building in two stages, with stone cladding and Benjamin and Philip Wyatt’s addition in 1828 of the Corinthian portico, two west wing bays and the 90-foot-long Waterloo Gallery based on Versailles’ Hall Of Mirrors. Restored in 1992-95, a ticket to Apsley House grants entry to 10 rooms including the Inner Hall and its leather-bound albums of Wellington images. There is also the Iron Duke’s staggering collection of paintings, silver plate, porcelain, sculpture, ceramics, furniture, and orders, medals and memorabilia, making it the last of London’s great on-site town-house collections.
Indeed, the family attraction boasts works by Goya, Rubens, Van Dyck, Caravaggio, Correggio, Brueghel, Steen, de Hooch, Wilkie and Lawrence. Such splendours were granted the Duke thanks to his military successes against Napoleon by thankful European kings and emperors. Indeed, Wellington acquired the Spanish Royal Collection after the Battle of Vitoria in 1813, including Velazquez’s Waterseller of Seville, while an 11-foot high nude Napoleon statue by Canova overlooks the ornate central stairwell at Apsley House.
Wellington presided over the redecoration of Apsley House’s interiors in Regency fashion and hosted annual Waterloo Banquets to commemorate his victory of 1815, entertaining fellow officers from his campaigns in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo. In the Plate and China Room, Thomas Stothard’s Wellington Shield and candelabra from the Merchants and Bankers of the City of London stand out, along with great dinner and dessert services such as the Sèvres Egyptian Service commissioned by Napoleon for Empress Josephine and the eight-metre-long silver Portuguese Service.
The history of Wellington’s rise from Ireland in 1790 to battlefield victories in India, Spain, Portugal, France and Belgium is charted, as well as his tenure as Tory Prime Minister in 1828-30, when he earned the nickname ‘Iron Duke’ for installing iron shutters at Apsley House after rioters broke its windows in protest at his Reform Bill. He died at Apsley House in 1852 and the basement contains an exhibition on his death, including his death mask.
A family day out to Apsley House is just the ticket for an any-weather visit, any time of year (opening time details at the official website). Schools are catered for with guided tours and a ‘Wellington Boot’ activity pack containing activity sheets and puzzles, and with limited disabled access, it’s a memorable family day out for everyone.