Located at Hyde Park Corner just across the street from Wellington Arch and Buckingham Palace, Apsley House was once the home of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. While a portion of this lavish palace is retained for private use by the Wellesley family, Apsley House is most famous today for its remarkable art collection, fascinating museum exhibits, and striking architectural design.
History of Apsley House
Apsley House was designed by the acclaimed British architect and interior designer Robert Adam and built for Henry Bathurst, who was known as The Lord Apsley during the 1770s, when he served as Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. Adam had trained for many years in Rome, and Apsley House bears his trademark neoclassical touch, sometimes called the “Adam Style.” Given its prominent location, and the fact that it was the first home of its day built at an entrance to Hyde Park, Apsley House’s original address was “Number One, London,” a nickname it bears to this day.
Apsley House was purchased by Richard Wellesley in 1807, but financial difficulties would force him to sell the property to his brother Arthur a mere decade later. Arthur Wellesley enlisted the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt to renovate and expand Apsley House. Many of the home’s most memorable features were created during this overhaul, including the State Dining Room, and the Waterloo Gallery. Apsley House would remain in the Wellesley family until the 1940s, when the seventh Duke of Wellington left the home and much of its art collection to the country. In 1947 the Wellington Museum Act was passed, transforming half the estate into the Wellington Museum and permitting the Wellesley family to retain residences in the other half. The museum opened to the public in 1952.
Apsley House Highlights
Apsley House is most famous for its impressive art collection, which is on display all throughout the property. Though this collection now spans centuries, arguably the most impressive portion of it dates to the time of Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. In the wake of his victory over Napoleon, the Duke was gifted artworks of some renown by rulers from all over Europe as tokens of their appreciation. As a result, the Apsley House art collection includes pieces by such artistic luminaries as Goya, Titian, and Rubens, just to name a few.
Apsley House’s Basement Gallery contains multiple exhibits profiling the Duke of Wellington’s illustrious military career. Here you’ll be able to see all types of artifacts pertaining to the Duke’s battlefield exploits—objects like weapons, uniforms, shields, medals, and more. You’ll even come face to face with an original pair of the great war hero’s false teeth.
As you move through Apsley House, you’ll be reminded that one of the biggest highlights of this attraction is the site itself. The many lavishly appointed rooms of Apsley House are positively overflowing with impressive items and decorative flourishes, a significant number of which were presented to the Duke of Wellington during his lifetime. These include pieces of silver, porcelain vases, luxurious rugs, statues, paintings, and a great deal more.
More to See and Do at Apsley House
There are plenty more things to see and do at Apsley House. Keep reading for a few more notes in advance of your visit.
• One of the Apsley House art collection’s must-see pieces is Napoleon as Mars the Peacekeeper. Nearly 12 feet in size, this white marble statue was created by legendary sculptor Antonio Canova during the first decade of the nineteenth century. It depicts a nude Napoleon as the Roman god Mars, and stands in a stairwell within the home.
• Across the street from Apsley House you’ll find a large statue of the Duke of Wellington on a horse. This monument, which faces the attraction, was created by the sculptor Joseph Boehm and dates to 1888.
• Waterloo Gallery is one of the show-stopping rooms on display at Apsley House. This opulent space was part of Benjamin Dean Wyatt’s expansion of the home, and the gilt-edged gallery, done up in an elaborate red-and-gold scheme and lined floor to ceiling with portraits and paintings, is not to be missed.
• Apsley House is located just a few hundred feet from Wellington Arch, one of London’s most significant public monuments. You’ll definitely want to make time to view it for yourself firsthand before or after your visit to Apsley House.
Why Apsley House Should Be on Your Must-See List
Apsley House is a unique place: part-art gallery, part-house museum, part-monument to one of the nation’s beloved heroes, it has a little bit of something for all types of visitors. Accordingly, whether you’re interested in European art, British military history, or simply want to tour a palatial home with a catalog of intriguing architectural components, Apsley House makes for a rewarding visit. Plus, it’s quite near several other popular London attractions like Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, and Kensington Palace.