History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Wellington nominated architect Benjamin Wyatt to carry our restorations at Apsley, and create a residence worthy of housing the Duke's growing art collection - and also serve as a London base for his sizeable political ambitions. Wyatt expanded Apsley by two bays, and built the Waterloo Gallery for the Duke's paintings. He also faced the red brick with more fashionable Bath stone, and introduced his own version of French style to the interior.
Successive generations of the Dukes pf Wellington lived at Apsley until the house was finally gifted to the nation in 1947. Today, English heritage maintains the house, and offers both guided and unguided tours.
Apsley has been extensively restored with an eye to making it look as much as possible as it was in the Duke of Wellington's day. Even the arrangement of pictures on the walls has been reproduced, using old watercolour paintings as guides.
The CollectionThe first Duke of Wellington possessed a collection of art and fine furnishings perhaps unrivalled by any contemporary. And he didn't have to pay for all of it, either! After the Duke's victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, grateful nations and private citizens showered Wellington with gifts of thanks, including a fine Sevres porcelain service from Louis XVIII of France, and superlative Portuguese silver.
Front and centre upon entering Apsley is Antonio Canova's huge statue of Napoleon, portrayed as an ancient Greek athlete. The statue stands at the foot of the great spiral staircase; the only place in the house strong enough and large enough to hold the weight of the oversized statue. Even so, the floor had to be specially reinforced to bear the weight. The sword carried by Wellington at Waterloo is on display in the Plate and china Room, as well as the sword of his great foe Napoleon.
VisitingThe house is on 3 levels, with an entrance hall, museum, small and large dining rooms, and a drawing room on the ground floor. The museum room was begun during Wellington's lifetime, and contains a sumptuous display of fine porcelain, gold, and silver objects given to the Duke by Eropean leaders after his victory at Waterloo. The dining rooms are as Wellington planned them, as venues for his annnual banquet on the anniversary of Waterloo. These banquets brought together soldiers who had fought at the battle.
In the cellar is an exhibition of military memorabilia, including Napoleon's death mask and medals awarded to Wellington by grateful heads of state across Europe. On the first floor are several more drawing rooms, lined with superb works of art. You navigate your way around the house with the aide of a rather good audio-video guide; not just the usual audio handset.
The a-v guide is extremely detailed, as are the printed guide in each room. We did find that there was only limited information on individual works of art on display, so if you wanted to learn more about anything in particular in any of the rooms, it was difficult, but aside from that a-v guides were better than at many other English Heritage attractions.
Apsley House faces Wellington Arch, a triumphal gateway intended as a ceremonial gate to the city of London. The Arch was moved from its original position to east traffic flow. It was once topped by a controversial equestrian statue of Wellington, but the statue has since been replaced by a huge sculpture of a four horses pulling a chariot.
You really should plan to visit Apsley House and the Wellington Arch at one time; the two attractions are just a stone's throw apart, and you can get a combined ticket at a discount. And, of course, both are linked to the Duke of Wellington.
Apsley House holds the distinction of being voted Best Small Visitor Attraction by the London Tourist Board.
About Apsley House
Address: 149 Piccadilly, Hyde Park Corner, London, Greater London, England, W1J 7NT
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: On the north side of Hyde Park Corner
Website: Apsley House
Phone: 020 7499 5676
English Heritage - see also: English Heritage memberships (official website)
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Nearest station: Hyde Park Corner - 0.1 miles (straight line) - Zone: 1
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Wellington Arch - 0.1 miles (Historic Building)
Clarence House - 0.6 miles (Historic Building)
St James Palace - 0.6 miles (Historic Building)
Texas Legation - 0.6 miles (Landmark)
Spencer House - 0.6 miles (Historic Building)
Guards Museum - 0.7 miles (Museum)
Royal Academy of the Arts - 0.7 miles (Museum)
Buckingham Palace and the Queens Gallery - 0.7 miles (Historic House)
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