Back in 2014, Number One London Tours organized a Duke of Wellington Tour which, I’m pleased to recall, was a resounding success. Our first stop was, fittingly, Number One London, the town house of the 1st Duke of Wellington, also known as Apsley House.  We arrived before public hours in order to take a private tour given by Christopher Small, who kindly agreed to let us photograph the interior of the house, which is otherwise prohibited.

For the Apsley House wsebite at English Heritage, click here. The website has an excellent timeline on the history of the house from its original construction by architect Robert Adam (1728-92) in 1771 for Henry Bathurst, Lord Apsley, to its present day status as The Wellington Museum.

Painting of Apsley House, 1770’s
Our post on the 2014 renovations at Apsley house can be found here.

First Christopher took us to see the many gifts and awards the Duke received from grateful governments and monarchs. Here are just a few from the several rooms full of treasure.

Field Marshal’s Batons: decorative  accolades from allied nations
The Prussian Service, with Arms of the Duke of Wellington, 1819
Silver-gilt candelabra
The Wellington Shield, designed by Thomas Stothard,
made by Benjamin Smith 1822


Vase from the Prussian Service, 1819


The Saxon Dinner Service


Arriving at the gigantic statue of Napoleon by Canova, one is amazed first by its size, then by its placement in Apsley House (home of Napoleon’s conqueror), then by the complete lack of resemblance to what we know of Napoleon’s physique: short and stout — and with no waistcoat into which he could insert his hand.

Canova sculpted this image of Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker between 1802 and 1806. It is said that Napoleon disliked this statue and had it placed in the basement of the Louvre. He found it disrespectful. The British government purchased the statue for 66,000 Francs in 1816; the Prince Regent gave it to Wellington, who then had to find a place for it.  The floor beneath the statue had to be reinforced in order to hold the heavy marble work, over eleven feet in height.

The graceful curving staircase is part of the original Adam design. Personally, this is one of my favourite features of the house and each time I visit, I contemplate all of the great and good of bygone eras whose hands touched the banisters. On the principal floor (up one flight) there are four drawing rooms, the State dining room, and the Waterloo Gallery.

Chandelier in the Piccadilly Drawing Room
Piccadilly Drawing Room

Designed in 1774 by Robert Adam, his fireplace, frieze and ceiling ornament remain.

Apse of the Piccadilly Drawing Room
Adam Ceiling of the Portico Drawing Room
Yellow Drawing room, above and below
The Striped Drawing Room was adapted by Benjamin Dean Wyatt in the 1820’s from a bedchamber and dressing room in the original Adam plan.
Striped Drawing Room; side table with bust of Prime Minister Spencer Percival
Bust of Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger (and reflection of Marilyn)
State Dining Room
The dining room was added to the Adam building for the Duke in 1819 by architect Benjamin Dean Wyatt.  Also included in the addition were bedrooms and dressing rooms, not on display.
The Portuguese silver gilt service stands as a centerpiece on the dining room table. It was made in Lisbon about 1816 and presented to the Duke in recognition of his preservation of Portugal.
Our excellent guide, Christopher Small, on the left.
The Waterloo Gallery was a second addition to the original Adam structure, built again by Benjamin Dean Wyatt (1775-1852) in 1828, after the Duke had become Prime Minister. At about 92 feet in length, it provides an elegant space for dinners, receptions, and the display of the extensive art collection.
The intrepid Duke of Wellington tour group
Below, several glass cases held possessions of the Duke and his family.
On the right above, the Duchess of Wellington’s silk Key Bag
1850 New Year Card from Queen Victoria to Elizabeth Hay, who would become the 2nd Duchess of Wellington in 1852.
1st Duchess of Wellington’ s Diary
1815 miniature, thought to be of Kitty, 1st Duchess of Wellington at age forty
Hair from the mane and tail of Copenhagen, the Duke’s charger.
If you’d like to see Apsley House first-hand, do consider joining us on Number One London’s Town & Country House tour, May 2024. Complete itinerary and details can be found here.


3 thoughts on “A VISIT TO NUMBER ONE LONDON (Apsley House)”

  1. According to the British physician who led the post-mortem examination, Napoleon's height was 1 meter and 70 centimeters. Not exactly short by the standars of his time.

    He was 51 years old when he died, almost 30 years after being in his twenties with a physique totally opposite to being stout.

    All it takes is a few minutes to see, via Google, his pictures at e.g. the Battle of Arcola……….

  2. Maria – 5' 7" was certainly not tiny for the day. Wellington himself stood between 5' 9 and 5' 10. No doubt Napoleon was fighting trim in his younger days. However, in the context of Waterloo, people tend to remember Napoleon as he was depicted then, rather than as a triumphant young warrior holding aloft a flag whilst seated atop a rearing white horse. Likewise, Wellington will always be thought of as he looked at the time of Waterloo, rather than as the white haired and slightly stooped elder statesman he became afterwards. Alas, history is kinder to some than to others.

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