Standing in Wellington’s boots at Apsley House

In a city steeped in history it’s easy to pass something by on a daily basis and not register its part in London’s past. I guess it’s one of the privileges of living and working in the capital that means we can make new discoveries on a daily basis (and if you can’t sit still at the weekends like me, you’ll find the need to hunt them down). I often make a point of reading blue plaques on my travels (I spotted a gold one recently!) but one of my most recent historical finds is Apsley House, home to the first Duke of Wellington.

It has a prime location at Hyde Park Corner, meaning it’s certain you’ll have stood near it at some point during your time in London. For a while, I passed this corner every day as part of my commute and whilst I’m sure my brain registered its lovely exterior, I was completely ignorant of the fact that it was owned by such a renowned figure in history or that you could take a peek inside. But on one of those cloudy Saturdays where a grey sky promised showers, James rummaged around the internet for something we could explore and stumbled upon Wellington’s residence.

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It was only £8.30 to get in, conveniently located and next to the park (in case the sun shone in our favour), and looked suitable to while away some of the weekend. So we hopped on the tube and turned up on the doorstep.

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Of course I got distracted by the floor tiles whilst James paid our entry fee and got to grips with the free head set.

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(I blame following @Ihavethisthingwithfloors for the current obsession. But it seems looking down as well as up is worthwhile sometimes!)

Once I’d stopped admiring the tiling we made our way around Wellington’s grand abode. But before I give you a brief tour, let me give you a little bit of background …

Apsley House was built in the 1770s for Lord Chancellor Henry. The house was bought by the first Duke of Wellington (Arthur Wellesley) in 1817 just a few years after the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. He had been voted £700,000 by Parliament to build a new ‘Waterloo Palace’, but instead chose to buy Apsley House to help resolve his brother’s financial issues. The house was refurbished to a palatial residence to befit his status at the cost of about £10,000.  It was closed for a while whilst the English Heritage refurbished parts accessed by the public and was re-opened earlier this year.

So let’s get back to the tour. We started in the Museum Room which houses much of Wellington’s silver and porcelain collection.

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Then moved up the grand staircase.

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At the bottom you’ll find a cheeky statue of Napoleon. Originally unveiled at the Louvre, it was later bought by the British Government as a gift to Wellington.

We took in some of Wellington’s traditional art in the Piccadilly Drawing Room…

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Wondered what dinner would be like in the Waterloo Gallery…

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And what gossip was shared in the Striped Drawing Room.

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There are a few more rooms you can explore but these ones were my favourite.

It’s amazing how well the house has been looked after by the English Heritage. It’s definitely one of those places for a grey day where you can happily go back in time and wonder what life was like for the rich and famous all those years ago.

You’ll enjoy visiting if you like art, history or nosing around other people’s homes.

Apsley House is currently open Wednesday to Sunday, 11am to 5pm. It’s £8.30 to get but you can also pay £10 to gain access to Wellington Arch (which I regret not doing after realising later that you can go out onto the balcony and take in some lovely views of Hyde Park!).

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2 Comments

  1. June 3, 2015 / 7:14 pm

    Great post and I’m glad you finally ventured in. If you’d like to find out more about Wellington’s life in London you might be interested in a walk the Westminster Guides are currently leading. The walk takes place weekly on Saturdays until 20th June with two weekday dates on 16th and 18th, the 18th being the actual anniversary. It was mentioned in last night’s Standard! https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/battle-of-waterloo-commemoration-walk-tickets-15943717087

    • ThisCityLifeLondon
      June 3, 2015 / 7:24 pm

      Oh sounds interesting! I haven’t done any guided walks in London yet so I should definitely try and do one soon!