The most westernmost building in old London, Apsley House was once known as Number One London. With a title like that, the house could hardly be anything other than grand.
Built by legendary Georgian architect Robert Adam for Lord Apsley, the house subsequently fell under the ownership of Arthur Wellesley, Britain’s greatest ever naval hero. The Duke of Wellington, to give him his official title, took possession of the house in 1817, after his brother Richard was forced to sell the property due to financial hardship.
The duke wasted little time in imposing his tastes on the building, engaging the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt to carry out renovations to the property. These included a three storey extension and a new staircase. In addition, the red brick façade of the building was clad in Bath stone, and a portico was added.
The result is a house that has dazzled succeeding generations of Londoners. First opened to the public in 1952, the building contains several perfectly preserved Georgian rooms as well as one of finest art collections in London.
Highlights of the collection include work by Correggio – The Agony in the Garden, Diego Velazquez – The Waterseller of Seville, Titian – Portrait of a lady known as Titian’s Mistress and Francisco De Goya’s equestrian portrait of the duke himself. The house also includes fine collections of furniture, sculpture and tableware.
Just as impressive are the interiors themselves with Wyatt’s French inspired style very much in evidence. Interiors wise, the main highlight is the majestic Waterloo Gallery, which has been described as one of the finest interiors in Britain. The room was built to mark the Duke’s greatest achievement, victory at the Battle of Waterloo, and little expense has been spared in creating a suitable monument to Wellesley’s success. The gilded Louis XIV style ceiling, luxurious red damask wallpaper, glittering crystal chandeliers and plethora of old masters all do justice to the esteemed victor of Waterloo.
Apsley House is a perfectly preserved example of a 17th century Georgian townhouse with stunning interiors and a priceless collection of art. English Heritage have done a fine job in preserving the building for the nation and if you would like an insight into how the great and good of the 18th century lived, then this is the perfect place to start. Go soon.
More information about Apsley House can be found here.
Information about other places of interest in London can be found here.