Apsley House, is one of the grandest Georgian buildings in the metropolis and is a stunning family attraction. Situated to the south-east of Hyde Park Corner, Robert Adam’s brick Apsley House was constructed between 1771 and 1778 as the seat of the Baron Apsley, Earl of Bathurst.
Also referred to as No. 1, London, because it was the first house after the tollgate boundary at Knightsbridge, Apsley House was the home of the Wellesleys from 1807, first Richard, then, a decade later, his young brother, Arthur, the first Duke of Wellington. It was gifted to the nation in 1947 by the family, who maintain private rooms, meaning that Apsley House is the sole English Heritage property in which the owner’s family still lives – not something you’ll find at just any old family attraction!
The life and times of Wellington at Apsley House are outlined in fine exhibits at the family attraction, including the building of the house two stages, with stone cladding and the addition of Benjamin and Philip Wyatt’s Corinthian portico in 1828, along with two west wing bays and the 90-foot Waterloo Gallery, fashioned after Versailles’ Hall Of Mirrors. Restored during 1992-95, ticket holders to Apsley House can view 10 sumptuous rooms, not least the Inner Hall and leather-bound albums of Wellington images hosued there. Additionally, there’s the Iron Duke’s stunning collection of paintings, silver plate, porcelain, sculpture, ceramics, furniture, plus orders, medals and memorabilia, making it London’s last outstanding on-site town-house collection.
The family attraction contains paintings by Goya, Rubens, Van Dyck, Caravaggio, Correggio, Brueghel, Steen, de Hooch, Wilkie and Lawrence. These amazing works were given to the Duke following his military victories over Napoleon by grateful European royalty. In fact, Wellington received the Spanish Royal Collection after the 1813 Battle of Vitoria, including Velazquez’s Waterseller Of Seville, and a naked 11-foot high Napoleon by Canova stands guard over the main staircase at Apsley House.
Wellington oversaw the Regency-style refurbishment of Apsley House’s interior in and threw annual Waterloo Banquets to mark his victory in 1815, welcoming fellow officers from campaigning in the Peninsular War and Waterloo. The Plate and China Room contains Thomas Stothard’s Wellington Shield and candelabra from the Merchants and Bankers of the City of London, as well as great dinner and dessert services like the Sèvres Egyptian Service ordered by Napoleon for Empress Josephine, and the eight-metre-long silver Portuguese Service.
Wellington’s rise from Ireland in 1790 to victories in India, Spain, Portugal, France and Belgium is detailed in a historical display, along with his times as Tory Prime Minister from 1828 to 1830, when he became ‘Iron Duke’ after installing iron shutters over the windows of Apsley House after rioters shattered them in protest at his Reform Bill. He died at Apsley House in 1852 and its basement has an exhibit about his death, including his death mask.
Apsley House is just the ticket for a family day out that the weather can’t put a dampener on and is open most of the year (see details at the official website). School parties are welcomed for guided tours and a ‘Wellington Boot’ activity pack has sheets and puzzles. With limited disabled access, it’s a grand family day out that everyone can enjoy.
Address: Hyde Park Corner, 149 Piccadilly, London, W1J 7NT
Tel: 020 7499 5676
Opening Times: Monday – Friday : Closed (5 November 2012 – 28 March 2013)
Saturday – Sunday: 10:00 – 16:00 (5 November 2012 – 28 March 2013)