Boasting the illustrious address of ‘Number 1, London’ Apsley House has been home to the Dukes of Wellington for well over 200 years. A little known gem in the heart of London, Apsley House is situated in prime location at Hyde Park Corner, symbolically marking the boundaries between the City of Westminster and the boroughs of both Belgravia and Kensington & Chelsea. Run by English Heritage, the house is now open to the public as a museum and art gallery.
The house was originally built in 1771 an entirely of red brick. Built for Lord Apsley, the Lord Chancellor, the majority of these original rooms still stand in the current building. The building was purchased by Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley (the brother of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington) in 1807. However, financial difficulties meant that Richard could not maintain the building and it was taken over by his brother, the Duke of Wellington.
Once Wellington had taken over, he employed Benjamin Dean Wyatt, master architect, to renovate the house to his own style. The most notable change was that Apsley House’s well known red brick exterior was completely covered in creamy Bath stone. Overall, the Duke spent more than £61,000 (millions of pounds in today’s money), including the addition of the waterloo Gallery. The Gallery (named after the Duke’s famous victory over Napoleon) is a grand ballroom of magnificent scale where a yearly banquet is still held to this date on the 18th of June every year to commemorate the Duke’s victory.
The 7th Duke of Wellington, Gerald Wellesley, gave the house and the majority of its contents over to the nation in 1947, however the Dukes of Wellington still live at Apsley House to this day. A Wellington Museum Act was passed by government in 1947 stating that the Wellington family has a right to occupy (just over) half the house “so long as there is a Duke of Wellington.” Today, the family apartments are mostly on the second floor.
Number 1, London
The popular nickname for Apsley House, Number 1 London, comes from the fact that the House was the first building passed by visitors who travelled into London from the countryside, and surrounding areas such as Knightsbridge. Originally, the house was one of many that lined the famous Piccadilly – however all of them, aside from Apsley, have been demolished. Technically speaking, the houses’ actual address is 149 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NT. But Number 1, London is much easier to remember!
As well as a simply being a magnificent structure, Apsley House contains a rather large, and important, collection of art. Over 200 paintings are kept inside, 83 of which were presented to the Duke of Wellington by King Ferdinand VII of Spain – who had found them in Joseph Bonaparte’s (elder brother of Napoleon) baggage train!
The collection includes works by artists from all over the world including Sir David Wilkie, John Singleton Copley, Jan Steen, Rubens, Velazquez Diego, Giulio Romano – just to name a few. In addition to paintings, the collection holds gifts given to the 1st Duke of Wellington throughout his career such as a pair of candelabras from Nicolas I of Russia, a porcelain dinner set from King Louis XVIII of France, and seven marshal’s batons from various European rulers (including three British pieces). Also on display and available to be viewed by the public is the Duke’s military uniform.
- English Heritage Member: Free
- Adult: £6.90
- Child (5-15): £4.10
- Concession: £6.20
- Family (2 adults, 3 children): £23.10
Opening Times (2014)
- 1st April to 2nd November: Wednesdays through Sundays 11:00 – 17:00
- 3rd November to 29th March: Saturdays and Sundays 10:00 – 16:00
- Last Admission 30 minutes before closing
- Nearest London Underground Station: Hyde Park Corner – Marble Arch (slightly further)
- Nearest Rail Station: Victoria Station
- Bus Routes: 2, 9, 10, 14, 16, 19, 36, 38, 52, 73, 74, 137, 148, 414, 436, C2
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