Apsley House – Home of the Duke of Wellington
I moved to London recently and it didn’t take long before I decided to get out and about and see the sites this wonderful, historical city has to offer. My first solo stop was to the Duke of Wellington’s home – Apsley House, Number One, London. The house was built in 1771 for Lord Apsley and was nicknamed “Number One, London” because it was the first house visitors saw when they entered London after passing through the gates of Knightsbridge. The House was sold to the Duke of Wellington in 1817 and was was lived in privately until the late 1940s when it was given to English Heritage. It was formally opened to the public in 1949 but the family still occasionally occupy certain areas of the house.
Apsley House is magnificent – I was in absolute awe of it’s grandeur. It is one of the few well kept residences remaining from this period and a beautiful museum that houses an amazing collection of paintings, dinnerware, swords and statues.
Unfortunately, the exhibit doesn’t allow interior pictures of the home but I was able to spend a significant amount of time there in order to adequately share the experience.
When you enter Apsley house, you stand in a large receiving room with the front reception and pieces of art along the walls. There are little hand held phones available for guests for an audio tour that explains the significance of each room and the objects in the showcases. I strongly recommend you get one as it makes understanding these treasure much more enjoyable. There is also a curious hooded seat in the entry area that was used by the door porter. It was hooded because he would be sitting in this chair all night, dozing, so the shielded covering provided shelter from the cold and draughts.
On the ground level, the first room I entered was a room full of swords and spectacular dinnerware. There were pieces with depictions of Waterloo and Wellington in battle, alongside scenes from his life and a few plates with pictures of Apsley house . These gifts came from many places: Prussia, Berlin and Austria and Portugal. Silver dining sets and beautiful porcelain plates adorned the walls. There was also a display case that held the sword Wellington wore at Waterloo. The most interesting set in this room (for me) was the Egyptian “divorce gift” Jospehine had requested from Napoleon. It was a beautiful Egyptian dinnerware set that she refused after commissioning it because she felt it was ‘too severe’. King Louis XVIII of France ended up giving the Egyptian dinnerware to the Duke of Wellington as a gift along with a lovely note with a few kind words in English about the virtues of friendship. This was my favorite set in the collection.
Another incredible piece was a massive statue of Napoleon as the God Mars. Napoleon disliked this likeness of himself because he felt it portrayed him in an unfavourable light. The statue stands on the ground level of the house right beside the grand staircase. It’s truly imposing and there were some amusing and enjoyable snippets recounted by the last Duke of Wellington on the audio tour about growing up around this statue.
The upper floors contains all of the incredible artwork that Wellington had amassed. There is a spectacular room where he regularly held dinner parties to commemorate his win at the Battle of Waterloo. A magnificent painting exists of the annual feast that was attended by Wellington’s fellow military comrades.
This is a site that is a must see if you plan on visiting England and I was happy that I made it my first solo stop. The museum is open between Wednesday to Sunday 11:00 – 17:00 March 29 – November 3. Sadly, between November 4, 2013 and March 31, 2014, the museum will be closed for repair.
To find out more information about this fantastic English treasure please visit: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/apsley-house/
TicketsAdults £6.70 Children (5-15) £4 Seniors (60+)/Students (with student card) £6 Family pass (2 adults, 3 children) £22.40
Opening Times: The museum in closed on Monday and Tuesday. It is open Wednesday to Sunday 11:00 -17:00.