The London and Waterloo Tour – The Grenadier Pub

Let me preface this post by saying that it may be one of the most difficult things I’ve ever written due to the fact that I had the most chilling experience of my life at the Grenadier Pub. Read on. . . .

Tucked away down London’s exclusive Wilton Mews, on the corner of Old Barrack Yard, the patriotic Grenadier pub is painted red, white and blue and boasts a red sentry box that serves as a nod to the property’s military history. Reputedly, the Duke of Wellington’s Grenadier Guards used it as their mess. Inside it is small, dark and cozy, the  paneled walls covered with military and Wellington memorabilia. Reputedly, the pub’s upper floors were once used as the officers’ mess of a nearby barracks, whilst its cellar was pressed into service as a drinking and gambling lair for the common soldiers.

A display at the entrance to the pub informs us that “18 Wilton Row was built circa 1720 as the home to The 1st Regiment of Foot Guards regiment and famously known as the Duke of Wellington’s Officers Mess. Originally named The Guardsman as a Licensed Premises in 1818, and frequented by King George IV, the Grenadier enjoys a fine reputation for good food and beer.” From the same display we also find out that the 1st Regiment of Foot Guards was created in 1656, and that 1st Guards were renamed by Royal Proclamation as the ‘Grenadier Regiment of Foot Guards’ because of their heroic actions against French Grenadiers at Waterloo in 1815. Continuing the Wellington connection, directly outside in the old Barrack Yard at the side of the pub is what is reputed to be the remaining stone of the Duke’s mounting block, whilst an archway down the nearby alley forms part of his stables.

Here, a young subaltern is said to have once been caught cheating at cards, and his comrades punished him with such a savage beating that he died from his injuries.

The Grenadier is said to be one of the most haunted places in London. People who have worked there have quit after supernatural run-ins with a solemn, silent spectre reportedly seen moving slowly across the low-ceilinged rooms. Objects either disappear or else are mysteriously moved overnight. Unseen hands rattle tables and chairs, and a strange, icy chill has been known to hang in the air, sometimes for days on end. A ghostly face floats in an upstairs window and – the most common tale – the sentry box out front is haunted by the ghost of the dead subaltern.

So . . . a few years ago I was at the Grenadier with Sue Ellen Welfonder (Bozzy) and three other women whom I won’t name because I haven’t seen them in years and have no idea whether or not they want to be associated with the following story. I don’t talk about it myself, as it makes one seem as odd as those who claim to have been abducted by aliens or to have seen the Loch Ness Monster and Big Foot. We, Reader, saw ghosts. Not a ghost, but a circle of ghosts. Regency soldier ghosts, no less.

The five of us could see that the alley beside the Pub led back to a yard with stable doors and a row of quaint single story houses along one wall. Very atmospheric, very historic . . . very tempting. What was back there? we asked. Let’s go look! we answered. What. A. Mistake. As you can see by the photo, a sort of alley runs beside the Pub and opens up at the end to the doors to what is reputed to have been Wellington’s stable.

We walked down the alley to the end, where the car is visible in the photo below. There was a car parked in the very same spot on the night in question. We got to the end of the alley and saw . . . . . a ring of ten to twelve men – soldiers, whose red coats had been thrown in a pile atop the cobbles. They wore breeches and boots and white shirts. They stood in a circle in the space between the front of the car and the stable doors – surrounding a man who was on his knees at the center of the circle, his face already bloody and bruised from the beating that had already been going on for some time (centuries?). These men were pissed off. Even taking into account the fact that cheating at cards was a much more serious offence then than it is today, their anger was beyond anything justified by such an offence.


We watched them as though we were watching a film that was being played at half strength. That’s the only way I can describe it. The scene was playing out before our eyes, in the bricked space between the car and the black stable doors, the men utterly oblivious to our presence. The film ran for a minute, probably less in hindsight, and then flickered out. Except this film had something extra – this one had been filmed in “emotion-vision.” As we watched the ghostly events, each one of us could actually feel the anger and the venom that was being directed towards the poor schmuck on his knees in the middle of the circle. In fact, I think the strength of that collective emotion was more overwhelming to us than the fact that we’d actually just seen ghosts. The experience was so shocking, so life altering that I will be forever grateful that I was in the company of others when it happened or else I’d truly doubt whether it had all taken place. Bozzy has reminded me that these events happened on Saturday, August 3, 1996, though September is supposed to be the month for the most ghostly occurrences at the Grenadier. Now you see why I call Sue Ellen “my Boswell” for she documents my life – in words and pictures – as thoroughly as Boswell did for Dr. Johnson.

The side door to the Grenadier Pub is now kept locked and access to the alley was blocked when I was there last (too right, mate!) and I have to admit that I really only gave getting to the exact site where we’d seen the ghosts a half hearted effort. You might now only be able to gain entry to the stable yard from the street behind. I suppose seeing ghosts is much like childbirth – the true horror of the experience abates with time and fourteen years have passed. Therefore, I’ve promised my eager-to-see-a-ghost daughter we’d go back to the Grenadier when we’re in London in June and so Brooke, Victoria and myself will be stopping by one evening for dinner.  And you can bet that I’ll be hoisting a few drinks before I even attempt to visit the alley again. I’ll report back on what we find. Or, with luck, don’t find. I say – Where’s the ghost of Arthur Wellesley when you need him?

London and Waterloo Tour – Apsley House

One of the very first stops Victoria and I will be making together is a visit to Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s London home.  Apsley House is, of course, the place from which we took the name for this blog. The house became familiarly known as Number One, London as it was the first house after the Knightsbridge toll gates that travelers passed upon entering London.

Apsley House, originally a red brick building, was built between 1781-1787 by neo-classical architect Robert Adam for Baron Apsley, later the second Earl Bathurst. It was purchased by Marquess Wellesley, elder brother to Arthur Wellesley, in 1807, with financial difficulties following soon after. Needing a base of operations and residence in London, and seeking to ease his brother’s financial burdens, the ever practical Duke purchased the house in 1817.
Wellington settled upon architect Benjamin Wyatt to carry out restorations to Apsley House. Wyatt  expanded Apsley by two bays, and built the Waterloo Gallery for the Duke’s paintings and refaced the house with Bath stone. Wellington presided over the redecoration of Apsley House’s interiors in Regency fashion and hosted annual Waterloo Banquets to commemorate his victory of 1815, entertaining fellow officers from his campaigns in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo.

The house was used for entertaining on a grand scale, and Wellington’s great dinner and dessert services are on display. The Sèvres Egyptian Service was commissioned by Napoleon for his Empress Josephine. The vast silver Portuguese Service, with an 8 metre long centrepiece, adorned the table at the annual Waterloo Banquet, a great event at which the Duke entertained officers who had served under him at Waterloo and in the Peninsular War.

From 1992-1995 Apsley House was restored to its former glory as the private palace of the ‘Iron Duke’. Apsley House is the last great London town-house with collections largely intact and family still in residence.

The first Duke of Wellington possessed a collection of art and fine furnishings perhaps unrivalled by any contemporary.  After the Duke’s victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, grateful nations and private citizens showered Wellington with gifts of thanks, including a fine Sevres porcelain service from Louis XVIII of France, and superlative Portuguese silver.

There are also 200 paintings from the royal collection of the Kings of Spain that Wellington recovered from Joseph Bonaparte after the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. After King Ferdinand VII was reinstated as monarch, he asked Wellington to keep the paintings as a gift of thanks. The Duke, no fool he, agreed. Among these paintings are works by Goya, Velasquez, Correggio, and Rubens.

Front and centre upon entering Apsley is Antonio Canova’s huge statue of Napoleon, portrayed as an ancient Greek athlete. The sword carried by Wellington at Waterloo is on display in the Plate and china Room, as well as the sword of his great foe Napoleon.

I suppose I should come clean and confess that the last time I was at Apsley House I set off the alarms. Really. It was in the Waterloo Chamber. I was looking at the 8 metre long silver centerpiece on the table and simply could not believe my eyes. The entire thing was coated in a layer of dust. My eyes must be deceiving me, thought I, as I wiped a fingertip across one of the figures. Well, not only was there, indeed, dust on my finger, but the alarms began sounding and by the time a guard entered the room, I’d turned my back and was studying the full length portrait of George IV. No matter that I was the only person in the room, I simply acted as though nothing at all had happened. And as far as I’m concerned, it hadn’t. Hopefully, they feel the same and will let me back in this June.   Kristine

London and Waterloo Tour – St. James's Street

One of the first stops on our London and Waterloo tour will be a stroll through the St. James’s area of London. Here’s a bit of history:

St James’s was once part of the same royal park as Green Park and St. James’s Park. In the 1660s, Charles II gave the right to develop the area to Henry Jermyn, 1st Earl of St Albans, who proceeded to develop it as a predominantly aristocratic residential area with a grid of streets centred on St James’s Square.

St James’s takes as its borders Piccadilly, Haymarket, the Mall and Green Park. This part of London became the centre of fashion in the 1530s when Henry VIII built St James’s Palace on the site of St James’s Hospital, a former leper hospital. The palace was one of the principal royal residences for more than 300 years and continues to be the Court’s official headquarters. Foreign ambassadors to the UK are still known officially as ‘Ambassador(s) to the the Court of St James’.

Until the Second World War, St James’s remained one of the most exclusive residential enclaves in London. Famous residences in St James’s include St James’s Palace, Clarence House, Marlborough House, Lancaster House, Spencer House, Schomberg House and Bridgewater House. It is now a predominantly commercial area with some of the highest rents in London and, consequently, the world. Corporate offices in St James’s include the global headquarters of BP and Rio Tinto Group. The auction house Christie’s is based in King Street, and the surrounding streets contain a great many upmarket art and antique dealers.

St James’s is also the home of many of the best known gentlemen’s clubs in London, and is sometimes, though not as often as formerly, referred to as “Clubland”. The “clubs” found here are organisations of English high society and include White’s, Boodle’s and Brooks’s Clubs. A variety of groups congregate here, such as: royals, military officers, motoring enthusiasts, and other groups. In 1990, the Carlton Club, traditional meeting place for members of the Conservative Party, was struck by an IRA bomb. In a similar vein, the area is also home to fine wine merchants Justerini and Brooks and Berry Brothers and Rudd, at numbers 61 and 3 St James’s Street respectively. Adjoining St James’s Street is Jermyn Street, famous for its many tailors. St James’s is also famous for being home to some of the most famous cigar retailers in London. At 35 St James’s Street is Davidoff of London, 19 St James’s Street is home to J.J. Fox and 50 Jermyn St has Dunhill; this makes the area a Cuban cigar haven.

Also once located in St. James’s was Almack’s Assembly Rooms in King Street, about which we’ll be blogging tomorrow. Visit the LondonTown page for St. James’s Street for an in-depth look at everything in the area today.

The statue of Brummell by Irena Sedlecka was erected on London’s Jermyn Street in 2002.

The London and Waterloo Tour – Our Itinerary

It occurred to me that before Victoria and I begin posting about the things we plan to see and do on our tour, you should know just what it is we plan to see and do. To that end, here’s our itinerary:

Thursday, June 10th – Victoria arrives in London

Saturday, June 12th – Kristine and Brooke arrive in London, and within hours we head out to the Queen’s Gallery at Buckingham Palace to see the Victoria and Albert: Art and Love exhibition. Then it’s over to Apsley House (Yes!) and a walk round the St. James’s area, taking in the Square, the side streets, the shops and Piccadilly. No doubt we’ll be dropping in to the Red Lion Pub, a few doors up from the Almack’s Building, for a pint. Or two. That night, we’ll be dining at the Grenadier Pub in Wilton Row, once the local pub for the men in the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment and filled with military and Wellington memorabilia.

Sunday, June 13th – This one is subject to change. It’s either off to a Sunday roast at Gordon Ramsay’s Chelsea restaurant, Foxtrot Oscar’s, and then on to the National Army Museum and perhaps to Liberty’s before they close at 6 p.m. Or, Victoria will be doing research while Brooke and I head out to Hampstead, the Heath and Kenwood House.

Monday, June 14th – To Kensington Palace, with tea in the Orangery, and then we’re off to Cecil Court and Charing Cross Road for book browsing, to Grosvenor Prints in Seven Dials for print browsing, followed by drinks at the Landsdowne Club and perhaps a dinner of Peking duck in Leicester Square.

Tuesday, June 15th – We’re off to Windsor to spend the day with author Hester Davenport. A tour of the Castle, old Windsor and a meal are all on the agenda. No plans for this evening, as no doubt we’ll be knackered.

Wednesday, June 16th – Victoria’s husband, Ed, arrives and she’s off to spend the day with him. If they haven’t yet made it to Hampstead, Brooke and Kristine will do that. If they have, then instead they plan to visit lots of pubs, browse at Top Shop and Sephora and God only knows what else.

Thursday, June 17th – We all head out to Dover, cross the English Channel and end up in Waterloo – Woooo Hooooo!

Friday, June 18th – Tour of the Waterloo sights and battle camps, with fireworks in the evening. Wooo Hooo again!

Saturday, June 19th – Visit the battle locations in and around Waterloo, with evening tour in Brussels titled “Walking in Wellington’s Footsteps.” Double Woooo Hoooo!

Sunday, June 20th – The re-enactment of the Battle of Waterloo – Huzzah! After which, Brooke and I again follow in Wellington’s footsteps and head off to Paris for a few days, while Victoria and Ed embark on a Rhine river cruise.

So there you have it. As I’ve indicated before, Victoria and I will be doing in-depth blogs on the various places we plan to visit and . . . . we’ll be bringing along a video camera, which neither of us really knows how to use beyond the old “point and shoot” method. If you can put up with the shaking, weird camera angles, any light problems and the like, we’ll be posting the videos on this blog for all to see. . . . as they say in England – oy vey.

The London and Waterloo Tour: The Lansdowne Club

One of the spots in London that Kristine and I plan to visit is the Lansdowne Club. It occupies the remaining part of Lansdowne House, built in the 1760’s and partially torn down in the 1930’s to put through a street to Berkeley Square. In its former glory, the house had a garden which met the south side of the Square. This former garden property is now office buildings (one called Lansdowne House).
On the 1830 map of London, you can see that the original Lansdowne garden (lower left) was positioned to allow a clear view of Berkeley Square from Devonshire House on Piccadilly (fully demolished in the 1920’s). Lansdowne House itself actually faced east.
Only in our imaginations can we picture the way Lansdowne House looked before the wreckers arrived. But in the Club, some of the original rooms designed by Robert Adam (Scottish, 1728-1792) have been preserved and recently restored to their full beauty.
One of these rooms, The Round Bar, displays pictures of Benjamin Franklin, John Jay and John Adams, for it was here that these gentlemen signed the preliminary agreements that led to the Treaty of Paris of 1783 that ended the American Revolution and established the independent United States of America. In the picture from the Club’s website, Lord Lansdowne’s picture is on the wall.
At the time, Lord Shelburne (who was named Marquis of Lansdowne in 1784), prime minister for part of the war, led the British negotiators. On my first visit to the Club, one of the barmen overheard our American accents and showed us around. If you are a member of a private club in the U.S., check to see if you have reciprocity with the Lansdowne Club, and if you do, when in London you can enjoy a visit for a meal or tea or even stay in one of the lovely bedrooms on the premises.
                                                                        
After parts of Lansdowne House were demolished, the Club added facilities including a swimming pool, workout areas, and the dining room on an upper floor. In keeping with the styles of the day, these areas were designed and decorated in the Art Moderne style. The juxtaposition of the Adam and Deco styles works amazingly well. The entrance foyer, the Adam Room, the Round Bar, and the ballroom are the originals, beautifully restored.
Two of the rooms removed in the partial demolition are in U.S. museums. The brightly-colored saloon, a main reception room in the house, is in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Adam designs, many based on motifs from classical sites uncovered in his lifetime in Pompeii, are brilliant. The dining room is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
Another amusing American connection is the fact that H. Gordon Selfridge, who founded the great department store on Oxford Street, leased Lansdowne House in the 1920’s before it suffered its partial demise. Selfridge was born in Wisconsin and was an executive with Marshall Field & Co. in Chicago before he moved to England. During Selfridge’s tenure, the house was the scene of many famous parties, most attended by his intimate friends, the celebrated dancing Dolly Sisters.

The Dolly Sisters, above; left, Selfridge’s on Oxford Street

More on Lansdowne House, the family, and their country home at Bowood will be posted soon.  

Below, The Adam Room in the Lansdowne Club                                                
                     
Above, the dining room in the Metropolitan Museumn of Art, New York
Above, the Drawing Room in the Philadelphia Museum of Art