As many of you know, I always make time to visit Apsley House when I’m in London, either dropping in on my own or scheduling the visit as a stop on one of my tours. In April 2018, we’ll be visiting Apsley House as part of the 1815 Waterloo Tour, but our group will be far from the first tourists to pay a call in order to admire the stunning interiors and artwork. In fact, tourists have been trying to gain entry into Apsley House since the time when the first Duke still lived there. Oddly enough, it seems that people were commonly writing to the owners of various houses in the hopes of being allowed inside and of being given a tour of the premises. Horace Walpole was plagued by applications for admission to his Strawberry Hill and owners of other unique properties were also applied to for the same purpose.
In 1850, the Duke of Wellington replied to a letter written to him by Lady Salisbury inquiring as to how best she and Lord Salisbury should deal with those who applied to them with requests to see their home, Hatfield House. In other words, how best to deal with 19th century tourists. The Duke answered her thusly:
London, July 27, 1850
” . . . . . I permit my servants to show the House and Place to whom they please and as they please. But I avoid to give an order that anything should be shown to anybody. I enclose the Lithograph answer sent to every application. You will find some regulation of the same description very convenient to yourself and Lord Salisbury. . . . . . “
Copy of Lithograph
Field Marshal The Duke of Wellington presents his
compliments. He is not in the habit of giving orders
to his Servants to show his House or its contents to
Gentlemen with whom he is not acquainted. They
are responsible for the good, cleanly and safe
keeping thereof, and they must form their own
judgment as to whom they will admit to see it, taking
care always that those whom they may admit do
not interfere with the convenient occupation of their
apartments by his son, his daughter-in-law and himself.
Unfortunately, the Duke was also plagued with requests from tourists at Walmer Castle, as the following letter to Lady Salisbury the following September illustrates –
Walmer, September 19, 1850
“. . . . . You are amused by the applications made to me. I have had a most curious one from one of the young ladies who were in the habit, as children, of coming to my Garden Gate in Hyde Park. This young lady is now with some friends a Broadstairs! and she insists upon my sending her an order that the interior of Walmer Castle should be shewn to her and her friends during the time that I am residing there; at which time, she has heard that the interior of the Castle is not usually shewn.
I have told her that my Predecessor in the office of Lord Warden had fitted up part of this Castle as a residence for the Lard Wardens, which I now occupy! that I have one room in this Residence, in which I sleep, dress and write all day! that the remainder of the House is occupied by my daughters-in-law and their Children or by other visitors, male or female! That I permitted the Servants to shew to whom they pleased, excepting when inhabited. But at such periods only when not inconvenient to the inhabitants. I added that I believed that I was the only individual in England who would be required by anybody to make a shew of his Bed Room and Dressing Room; and that I doubted much whether my daughters-in-law, or their Children, or any Ladies or Gentlemen, inhabitants of Rooms in this Residence, would much like the proposition that their Rooms should be made a shew of while they should inhabit them. I have received no answer.”
Alas, visitors are no longer allowed into the private apartments at Apsley House, though Wellington’s room at Walmer Castle has been preserved as it was at the time of his death and is still on view. As our visit will be confined to viewing the public rooms only at Apsley House during the 1815 Waterloo Tour, I like to think that the Duke won’t mind our presence too much. Complete details regarding the upcoming Tour can be found here.