Essential Architecture-  London

Apsley House Number One, London


Benjamin Dean Wyatt


stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic circulation system






golden Bath stone


English aristocratic town House
  Apsley House, as it is today, Hyde Park Corner, London.
  Apsley House in 1829 by TH Shepherd. The main gateway to Hyde Park can be glimpsed on the left.
  Apsley House on an 1869 Ordnance Survey map, showing its position at the end of a terrace. The neighbouring houses were demolished in the post World War II period to allow Park Lane to be widened. The Wellington Arch has been moved since this time.
  The Waterloo Gallery at Apsley House by Joseph Nash, 1852.
Apsley House, also known as Number One, London, was the London residence of the Dukes of Wellington and stands alone at Hyde Park Corner, on the south-east corner of Hyde Park, facing south towards the busy traffic circulation system.

The house is now run by English Heritage and is open as a museum and art gallery, although the current Dukes of Wellington still use part of 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 by Goya, Velasquez, Rubens and Brueghel among others, porcelain, the silver centrepiece made for the Duke in Portugal, c 1815, sculpture and furniture. Antonio Canova's heroic nude Napoleon holding a gilded Nike in the palm of his hand, made 1802-10 and set up for a time in the Louvre, was bought by the Government for Wellington in 1816 (Pevsner) and stands in Adam's Stairwell.

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.

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 between 1818 and 1819. He extended the house by adding two bays westward to the original five; built the Waterloo Gallery for the Duke's paintings, and faced the red brick with the grander golden Bath stone. He also introduced his own version of French style to the interior, notable in the Waterloo Gallery and the florid wrought iron stair-rail, "just turning from Empire to a neo-Rococo" (Pevsner).

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.

During the Second World War, it was rumoured that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth heard that the treasures of the house hadn't been evacuated. The story goes that they both arrived in a van and quickly had the objects moved to Frogmore for safekeeping.

The 7th Duke gave the house to the nation in 1947, but the family retains an apartment on the second floor (U.S. third floor). The house is now managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.

Blaikie, Thomas, You look awfully like the Queen: Wit and Wisdom from the House of Windsor. Harper Collins, 2002. ISBN 0007148747.
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 1851771611
Nikolaus Pevsner, The Buildings of England: London vol. I, p 463.