Apsley House is a Grade I listed building and is the London townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington. It stands alone at Hyde Park Corner facing south towards the busy traffic roundabout in the centre of which stands the Wellington Arch. It is perhaps the only preserved example of an English aristocratic town house from its period. 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 through the toll gates at Knightsbridge.
The house is now run by English Heritage and is open to the public as a museum and art gallery. The practice has been to maintain the rooms as far as possible in the original style and decor. It contains the 1st Duke’s collection of paintings, porcelain, the silver centrepiece made in Portugal for the Duke, sculpture and furniture. It also houses 83 paintings from the Spanish royal collection.
The house was originally built in red brick by Robert Adam between 1771 and 1778 for Lord Apsley, the Lord Chancellor, who gave the house its name. Some Adam interiors survive. namely the semi-circular Staircase, the Drawing Room, and the Portico Room. Wellington employed the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt to carry out renovations and the red-brick exterior was clad in Bath stone.
After Wellington became Prime Minister in 1828, the ‘Waterloo Gallery’ was added on the west side of the house. It was named after the first Duke’s famous victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. A special banquet is still held annually to celebrate the date of the victory on the 18th June 1815.
A collection of 200 paintings were acquired by the first Duke after the Battle of Vitoria, in 1813. The paintings were in Joseph Bonaparte’s baggage train and were part of what was called ‘the biggest loot in history’, The Duke of Wellington decided to return the paintings, which included works from the Spanish royal collection. King Ferdinand VII of Spain answered by presenting some of the paintings to Wellington, as it was ‘well deserved’.
For more information go to http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/apsley-house/
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