Apsley House – London’s best Places
Apsley House –
The 8th Duke of Wellington still uses part of the building as a part-time residence.
The house, referred to as the Wellington Museum, was built by Robert Adam between 1771 and 1778 for Lord Apsley, the Lord Chancellor.
Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, the elder brother of Sir Arthur Wellesley, bought the house in 1807 but financial difficulties in 1817 forced him to sell it to his brother, the Duke of Wellington, who needed a London base from which to pursue his new career in politics.
Some Adam interiors survive: the semi-circular Staircase, the Drawing Room with its apsidal end, and the Portico Room, behind the giant Corinthian portico added by Wellington.
It contains the 1st Duke’s collection of paintings, porcelain, the silver centrepiece made for the Duke in Portugal, c 1815, sculpture and furniture. Antonio Canova’s heroic marble nude of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker was made 1802-10 and bought by the Government for Wellington in 1816 and stands in Adam’s Stairwell.
Wellington employed Benjamin Dean Wyatt to carry out renovations. In 1819, he added a three-storey extension to the north east, housing a State Dining Room, bedrooms and dressing rooms. The second phase was started in 1828 after Wellington became Prime Minister and included a new staircase and the “Waterloo Gallery” on the west side of the house. The red-brick exterior was clad in Bath stone, and a pedimented portico added.
Wyatt’s original estimate was £23,000 but structural defects meant more than £61,000 was spent. Wyatt used a French style for the interior, notably in the Waterloo Gallery and the florid wrought iron stair-rail.
The Waterloo Gallery is named after the Duke’s victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo on the18th June 1815 and a special banquet celebrates it every year.
The Duke’s equestrian statue is across the road with the plinth guarded at each corner by an infantryman. This statue was cast from guns captured at the battle.
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.