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Number 1, London

I thought I might as well post some pictures from my little escapade to Apsley House, which was the home of Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington. Apsley was originally designed for Henry Bathurst aka Lord Apsley (2nd Earl of Bathurst) by the neoclassical superstar Robert Adam between 1771-1778. Seriously, if I had a time machine and/or knew the art of reviving the dead, I would commission Adam to make me a house - in his time he designed Pulteney Bridge in Bath, fashionable town houses in Gosvenor & Fitzroy Square, Osterley Park and my beloved Kenwood House, which I will make a separate post about at some point as it figures in my spring escapades. He also did some work on Theatre Royal in Drury Lane.

Wellington moved to Apsley in 1817 and was granted 700.000 pounds to redecorate the house, which had cost Bathurst 10.000. Wellington hired Benjamin Dean Wyatt (who incidentally also worked on Theatre Royal) to work his magic, and he re-faced the facade (originally red brick), refurbished the rooms and added another part to the house. What struck me the most was how incredibly aristocratic it was. Not that I expected it to be small and snuggly, but I am more used to the country houses of the gentry or more middle class town dwellings, with less gold and more embroidery. Now, onto the pictures (please do forgive the poor quality as they were sneakily taken with my iphone.)

Apsley House

Apsley House
Number One, London. I had something akin to a asthma attack upon seeing the facade as I am ever such a big fan of Bath stone (which made my trip to Bath last September rather problematic.)

The Wellington Arch. Weather too chilly to stroll about the park, so that's that.

Me and my friend visiting me in London admiring ourselves in the mirror in The Piccadilly Drawing Room, which was my favourite room. It was allegedly in this room Rossini performed in 1824.

In a perfect world, I would be allowed to live in this room. Oh, yellow wallpaper! *swoons* It is however not the original wallpaper, but hung up in 1980 when the room was restored. The arched ceiling however, is the original one by Robert Adam.

Apsley's most famous room: The Waterloo Gallery, where he held his annual Waterloo-banquets. The banquet has seating for 85 people: the king, dukes, foreign ambassadors and Wellington's own generals who fought at Waterloo. As the veterans grew old and died he expanded the guest list to include younger officers. (A trick I shall remember for future use when no one shows up to my birthday party - aim lower!)

There are mirrors on the back of the window shutters, so when closed it resembles the hall of mirrors in Versailles (though I must say I found Versailles prettier - shhh, don't tell Wellington.) Just imagine dining in the gallery when the shutters are closed, reflecting the candlelight onto the gilded frames... Oh, the grandeur! The wallpaper would have been yellow in Wellington's time, something Mrs. Arbuthnot (who was asked to design the gallery after he and Wyatt fell out) lamented: "I am rather discontented, however, for I think he is going to spoil his gallery [...] He is going to hang it with yellow damask, which is just the very worst colour he can have for pictures and will kill the effect of the gilding. However, he will have it."

The room is in the Palladian style, which was popular in the 18th century and must have seemed somewhat old fashioned and stately in the 1820s. It is furthermore rather ironical that the chosen style is Palladian, as Robert Adam rejected that particular style as too pompous.

The man himself.

William, Prince of Orange, who according to Nick Foulkes' Dancing into Battle: A Social History of the Battle of Waterloo, was safer in the ballroom than on the battlefield. Lady Georgiana Lennox described him as well liked but inexperienced:

"During the Duke's absence at the Congress of Vienna, the rumour arrived of Napoleon's intended invasion of Belgium, and there was great anxiety among the English officers for the Duke's arrival, as the Prince of Orange would otherwise have been in command. The Prince himself was quite angry with me for sharing this feeling, exclaiming, "Why have you no confidence in me?" to which I replied, "Well, sir, you have not been tried and the Duke has." It is impossible to describe the general relief it was when the Duke re-turned from Vienna; for the Prince of Orange, although personally much liked, was inexperienced and rash." [Source]

Lord Nelson!

Madam Nipple Napoleon's sister, Pauline. It is paintings like this that reminds me why I love regency fashion, simple yet so completely over the top.

For good measure, here are a few pictures I snitched of flickr (all linked to their sources):

london apsley house eh nt @ J8

This is the striped drawing room which originally consisted of three rooms: a dressing room, a servant's room and a bedroom. Wyatt created one big room out of them, which served as Wellington's personal hall of fame and a room where guests could relax, play cards and admire the paintings. This striped wonder was created in 1826, but the hangings are not original. The room might have been made to look like Napoleon's tent room at Malmaison, decorated for Josephine.

Amusingly enough, my room in Bath (95 Sydney Place, once a stately town house, now a stately bed and breakfast, also used as the Elliott's Bath residence in the 1995 adaption of Persuasion) during the Jane Austen Festival last year, had wallpaper inspired by rooms at Malmaison. But unlike in Wellington's drawing room, there's wallpaper in the ceiling, really creating the illusion of sleeping in a tent:

Apsley House ap448 Apsley House Robert Adam Staircase. Apsley House candle to bed
The staircase is the original one by Robert Adams.

To conclude: Apsley House is a gorgeous aristocratic town house you should all visit. I was recommended visiting Sir John Soane's Museum as a contrast to Apsley. Personally I preferred Soane's as he designed his house in different architectural styles (even tacky gothic!) and collected ancient Roman and Greek sculptures on a large scale. It's such an amazing house and I've taken to hanging around there as it is free entry. Do call upon Sir Soane as well, preferably during one of the candlelit evening openings, they're spectacular.


( 11 Capital! Capital! — Every savage can dance )
Apr. 24th, 2011 03:29 pm (UTC)
A very nice post. I always love going to Apsley House; living only a short distance from London it's a cheap and easily accessible day out. What did you make of the massive naked Napoleon in the stairwell? (I sometimes wish I could travel back in time just to see the look on Welly's face when it arrived.)

What struck me the most was how incredibly aristocratic it was. Not that I expected it to be small and snuggly, but I am more used to the country houses of the gentry or more middle class town dwellings, with less gold and more embroidery.

Apsley House was very much Wellington's "public" home, as it was here that the Duke of Wellington held banquets, dealt with State business and received important guests; therefore the decor is suitably grandiose as one would expect for such a purpose. Stratfield Saye and Walmer Castle reflect more on Wellington the man, and are both well worth the visit. Stratfield Saye is approaching snuggly, but is still quite grand being still the private home of the Duke of Wellington. In my opinion it is at Walmer Castle (which he occupied as Lord Warden of the Cinque Ports, which claimed his favourite residence and where he died) that you get the best sense of Arthur Wellesley, the man. The castle is a very small, comfortable residence with no pretense at being anything great or grand, and so when you walk through his rooms you see his personal touches; the prints of Sarah Siddons, the small porcelain statue of Jenny Lind, his favourite chair and old campaign bed - directly over which are placed his bookshelves, as he used to read in bed for a while every night before going to sleep. Just little things that relate directly to Wellington the man, and have nothing to do with his public persona or legend.


/end extensive ramble.

But yes, a lovely house, and always well worth a visit.
Apr. 24th, 2011 04:33 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is gorgeous! Thanks for the tour. *g*
Apr. 24th, 2011 06:14 pm (UTC)
Ooh look, is that Lord Paget beside Wellington in the striped drawing room? That's an awkward relationship if ever there was one, given that Paget eloped with Gerald Wellesley's wife Charlotte Cadogan. I wonder who hung them side by side?!
Apr. 24th, 2011 06:54 pm (UTC)
It is as well.*g* Either that was pure accident or somebody from the V&A has got a wicked sense of humour.
Apr. 24th, 2011 07:46 pm (UTC)
Hopefully the latter! I particularly like the way Paget's portrait dwarfs Wellington's ;)
Apr. 24th, 2011 09:08 pm (UTC)
That one for sure. The black-coated and Waterloo Lawrences however, one at the top of the stairs and one in the entrance hall, each take up half a wall by themselves.

(That and the usual quote of "It's not the size, it's how you use it." ;D)
Apr. 25th, 2011 07:29 pm (UTC)
each take up half a wall by themselves
Over compensating was he? ;)

Btw I should have said, the reason I know about Paget is that George Cadogan, erstwhile midshipman of HMS Indefatigable, fought a duel with Paget to restore the Cadogan family honour following his sister Charlotte's elopement.

PS. My dear Miss Citoyenne,

Profuse apologies for this unwarranted appropriation of your journal.

I am pleased to be your Obednt servant

Apr. 25th, 2011 10:23 pm (UTC)
That or Lawrence had a desire to depict certain things out of proportion... Ok, ok, I'll stop now. Mais M. le Duc était de beaucoup le plus fort.

nodbear was kind enough to send me some pages of research earlier in the year on George Cadogan whilst he was captain of the Crocodile and took Wellesley over to Portugal in 1808, and the duel came up in discussion then. (N.B. It was Henry Wellesley, Wellington's littlest brother, not Gerald that Charlotte was married to; although Gerald's own wife was unfaithful also, which is why the poor soul never made it to Bishop.)

P.S. My abject apologies also to you, Mlle. Citoyenne, for the somewhat shameless spamming.

Kindest regards,

Apr. 26th, 2011 09:33 pm (UTC)
Ah yes, the Crocodile was not a happy ship.

But of course, Char married Henry and her elder sister Emily married Gerald and both marriages ended in divorce.

I have Gerald on the brain at the moment as I've just got a copy of an extraordinary letter from Henry Cadogan to Gerald and also one from Wellington to Gerald following Henry's death.

Okay, a really will go away now and stop all this Cadogan / Paget / Wellesley spam ;)
Apr. 24th, 2011 10:53 pm (UTC)
oooh, gorgeous. Came over from AoS - mind if I friend you?
Oct. 31st, 2011 10:26 pm (UTC)
I don’t bookmark sites but i will bookmark this! LOL!

( 11 Capital! Capital! — Every savage can dance )