Wellington Museum, London
Portrait of a man , Diego Velázquez
Apsley House, also known as Number One, London, is the London townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington. It stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic roundabout in the centre of which stands the Wellington Arch. It is a Grade I listed building.
The house is now run by English Heritage and is open to the public as a museum and art gallery, exhibiting 83 paintings from the Spanish royal collection, although the 9th Duke of Wellington still uses the building as a part-time residence. It is sometimes referred to as the Wellington Museum. It is perhaps the only preserved example of an English aristocratic town house from its period. 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 for the Duke in Portugal, c. 1815, sculpture and furniture. Antonio Canova's heroic marble nude of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker made 1802–10, holding a gilded Nike in the palm of his right hand, and standing 3.45 metres to the raised left hand holding a staff. It was set up for a time in the Louvre and was bought by the Government for Wellington in 1816 (according to Nikolaus Pevsner) and stands in Adam's Stairwell.
Apsley House stands at the site of an old lodge that belonged to the crown. During the Interregnum newer buildings were erected between what is now Old Regent Street and Hyde Park Corner. In the 1600s after the Restoration they were leased by James Hamilton (died 1673) and renewed by Elizabeth his widow in 1692 on a 99-year lease (Hamilton Place takes its name from that family). Immediately before Apsley House was built the site was occupied by a tavern called the Hercules Pillars (immortalised by Henry Fielding in The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling as the location where Squire Western resides when he first journeys up to London).
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: the semi-circular Staircase, the Drawing Room with its apsidal end, and the Portico Room, behind the giant Corinthian portico added by Wellington.
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 after the toll gates at Knightsbridge. It was originally part of a contiguous line of great houses on Piccadilly, demolished to widen Park Lane: its official address remains 149 Piccadilly, W1J 7NT. In 1807 the house was purchased by Richard Wellesley, 1st Marquess Wellesley, the elder brother of Sir Arthur Wellesley, but in 1817 financial difficulties forced him to sell it to his famous brother, by then the Duke of Wellington, who needed a London base from which to pursue his new career in politics.
Wellington employed the architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt to carry out renovations in two phases: in the first, begun in 1819, he added a three-storey extension to the north east, housing a State Dining Room, bedrooms and dressing rooms. The second phase, started after Wellington had become Prime Minister in 1828, included a new staircase and the "Waterloo Gallery" on the west side of the house. The red-brick exterior was clad in Bath stone, and a pedimented portico added. Wyatt's original estimate for the work was £23,000, but the need to repair structural defects discovered during the work led to costs escalating to more than £61,000. Wyatt introduced his own version of French style to the interior, notably in the Waterloo Gallery and the florid wrought iron stair-rail, described by Pevsner as "just turning from Empire to a neo-Rococo" .
The Waterloo Gallery is, of course, named after the Duke's famous victory over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. A special banquet is still served annually to celebrate the date – 18 June 1815. The Duke's equestrian statue can be seen across the busy road, cloaked and watchful, the plinth guarded at each corner by an infantryman. This statue was cast from guns captured at the battle.
Gerald Wellesley, 7th Duke of Wellington, gave the house and its most important contents to the nation in 1947, but by the Wellington Museum Act 1947 the right of the family to occupy just over half the house was preserved "so long as there is a Duke of Wellington". The family apartments are now on the north side of the house, concentrated on the second floor.
The Agony in the Garden, Antonio da Correggio, c. 1524
The Waterseller of Seville, Diego Velázquez, 1618–1622
Two men sitting at the table, Diego Velázquez, c. 1618
Apsley House London, Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker statue by the Italian artist Antonio Canova of Napoleon I of France
The notable collection of 200 paintings includes 83 paintings which were acquired by the first Duke after the Battle of Vitoria, in 1813, in nowadays Vitoria-Gasteiz. The paintings were in Joseph Bonaparte's baggage train and were part of what was called 'the biggest loot in history', most of which was 'lost' in the aftermath of the battle. Lord Malborough, brother of the duke, catalogued 165 of 'the finest paintings' to have arrived to the duke of Wellington's residence from Vitoria-Gasteiz. It's estimated that around 300 paintings were part of that loot. The Duke of Wellington decided to return the paintings; to which King Ferdinand VII of Spain answered by presenting the collection to Wellington, as it was 'well deserved'. The painting collection includes work by:
John Singleton Copley
Sir William Beechey
Sir Thomas Lawrence
Sir David Wilkie
Pieter de Hooch
Jan van Huysum
Willem van Mieris
Aernout van der Neer
Adriaen van Ostade
Cornelius van Poelenburgh
Willem van de Velde the Younger
Jan Brueghel the Elder
Anthony van Dyck
Antony Francis van der Meulen
David Teniers the Younger
Hans von Aachen
Anton Raphael Mengs
Antonio da Correggio
Giovanni Paolo Panini
Velázquez, Diego (4 paintings, including The Waterseller of Seville)
Francisco Goya (1 painting)
Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (3 paintings)
Jusepe de Ribera (3 paintings)
The 1st Duke received many gifts from European continental rulers that are displayed in the House:
A pair of large candelabra of Siberian porphyry, ormolu & Malachite centre and two side tables, presented by Nicholas I of Russia.
A pair of Swedish porphyry urns, from King Charles XIV John of Sweden.
A dinner service of Berlin porcelain, from Frederick William III of Prussia.
The Egyptian revival decorative arts dinner service of Sèvres porcelain, from Louis XVIII of France.
The silver and silver-gilt Portuguese service of over a thousand pieces, from the Portuguese Council of Regency.
The Saxon Service of Meissen porcelain, from Frederick Augustus I of Saxony.
Seven marshal's batons from various European continental rulers (and another three from the British). Nine of them are on display at Aspley House (the Russian baton was stolen in the 1960s).
The Duke's uniform and other memorabilia may be seen in the basement.
Stratfield Saye House – the country house of the Dukes of Wellington
Historic England. "Apsley House (1226873)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 1 September 2013.
Knight, Charles, ed. (1851), Knight's cyclopædia of London, London, p. 789
Aspley House (English Heritage) accessed 13 March 2009
149 Piccadilly, W1J 7NT – Google Maps
"Arthur Wellesley and Benjamin Wyatt". English Heritage. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
Timbs, John (1858). Curiosities of London. London. p. 541.
Daily Telegraph: "Heritage held hostage to class war" by Adam Nicolson
the list from: Apsley House Wellington Museum, Simon Jervis, Maurice Tomlin & Jonathan Voak 1995
Jervis, Simon and Tomlin, Maurice (revised by Voak, Jonathon) (1984, revisions 1989 & 1995) Apsley House Wellington Museum published by the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London ISBN 1-85177-161-1
Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London vol. I, p 463. ISBN 0-300-09653-4
Stourton, James (2012). Great Houses of London (Hardback). London: Frances Lincoln. ISBN 978-0-7112-3366-9.