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Explore some of the most beautiful interiors, paintings and historic objects at the huge Apsley House in Mayfair, central London. With an art collection to rival some of Europe's most prestigious galleries, as well as gifts from royalty, the original residence of the 1st Duke of Wellington still stands tall to this day.
Most famous for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, thus putting an end to the Napoleonic Wars, the 1st Duke of Wellington was the first of a long line of Dukes that continue to this day. The house is now occupied by the current and 9th Duke of Wellington, Arthur Charles Valerian Wellesley. However, it is the history of the house and its role in the lives of politicians, royalty and those with military significance that give the building its impressive standing as one of London's favourite English Heritage attractions. In the 18th century Apsley House was commonly referred to as 'Number 1', as it was the first house people would come to on their way into the centre of London.
Originally built on the site of a much older house hundreds of years ago, Apsley House went through many changes in the 17th century, and was passed between various members of the English nobility until it came into the hands of the 1st Duke of Wellington, Arthur Wellesley. Also known as the 'Iron Duke', Wellesley is a significant figure in British political and military history, and was also famous as taking the role of prime minister, as well as his victory at the Battle of Waterloo. Wellesley fought in various battles around the world, including in Spain, India, Denmark, and of course, France. He was considered to be a military success, and was known by people all across England as a hero for his part in the Napoleonic Wars. While in London, the Duke spent most of his time at Apsley House, but he didn't get on well with his wife, who stayed at their residence in the countryside while the Duke enjoyed his time in London. You can see an impressive portrait of the Iron Duke himself inside Apsley House, or for a more realistic depiction, head outside to see the towering statue of Arthur Wellesley on his horse.
Following Arthur Wellesley after his death aged 83 in 1852, Apsley House followed down the line of subsequent Wellington Dukes, and is now run by English Heritage and is open to visitors. Inside, you can get a glimpse of the spectacular grandeur that the Dukes lived in, with gold adorned decor and a huge Dining Hall where banquets were held. The Waterloo Gallery houses the historic art collection of Apsley House, and was named after the famous battle against Napoleon. Art lovers will be truly impressed on their visit to Apsley, as the house is home to a number of works by the Old Masters, as well as more modern work and sculptures. Caravaggio, Titian, Van Dyck and Velázquez are all names that feature in the impressive art collections. There are also many portraits that were commissioned by the 1st Duke, of himself and his contemporaries. There are also over 3,000 significant historic artefacts on display in Apsley House, including medals, trophies and lots of expensive gifts that were apparently given to the Duke of Wellington but various royalty from across the globe.
With so much to take in on your visit, there are visual and audio guides that will take you all the way from the Waterloo Gallery to the basement, where you can learn about the history of the interiors and the features of the old building. If you're visiting with the kids, you'll find lots of great resources are available in order for them to get the most of their experience too. While children are bound to be impressed by the huge statue outside, as well as the impossibly elaborate interior decoration of Apsley House, there are also resource packs available for free that will help them get the most our of their time exploring the building. The printable Apsley House Activity Pack is aimed at Key Stage 2 children, and is available on the English Heritage website. Here, kids can tick off all the different things they find as they explore, as well as draw their favourite exhibit and learn about artefacts from all over the world.
Located by the Wellington Arch in the corner of Hyde Park, Apsley House is the perfect place to visit if you're exploring the Mayfair and Hyde Park areas of London. Not only is the area steeped in local history, but there also lots of great places to eat, drink and shop in the surrounding area. Hyde Park is a particular favourite for both visitors and London residents alike, with 350 acres of green parkland to explore, all in the heart of the capital. You can also check out some of London's most famous and luxurious shops near Hyde Park, including Harrods, Harvey Nichols and Selfridges. Or, wander north east to check out the trendy shops of Carnaby Street, or high street favourites and some of London's top attractions at Oxford Street. While there isn't actually a cafe inside Apsley House itself, Hyde Park is the perfect place to go for a picnic during the warmer months. Alternatively, the area surrounding Wellington Arch is home to some great London eateries, including the Hard Rock Cafe, Nobu London, and a selection of cafes, takeaways and pubs.
If you had a brilliant time exploring the history of Apsley House and are ready to discover some more top London art attractions, The Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace is the place to go to get your fill of some more beautiful historic art. Or, for a mixture of the classic and contemporary, head to the Royal Academy of Arts, which is home to a regularly changing schedule of exhibitions, as well as longstanding collections.
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English HeritageShow more
English Heritage brings history to life in an engaging way to over 10 million people every year, caring for over 400 historic palaces, houses, monuments and other locations.
The remarkable collection of English Heritage buildings and monuments began to assemble as early as 1882. These were basically a collection of the greatest sites, which told the story of Britain. From prehistoric sites to historical bridges, gardens, forts and castles, English Heritage sites include Stonehenge, Rochester and Tintagel Castle, Rievaulx Abbey, Eltham Palace and Audley End House and Gardens.
As a registered charity, the English Heritage is governed by a board of trustees. The charitable trust depends on the income generated from admission and English Heritage membership fees to its properties and income from holiday cottages and gift shops. It is also funded from grant-in-aid income from the government Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
The difference between National Trust and English Heritage is that the National Trust is purely a charitable foundation that is funded mostly by members’ subscription and donations to look after their historic houses and gardens throughout England. English Heritage was originally run on a budget, funded by taxes by the British Government as a national heritage collection. In 2015, the English Heritage split into two parts: English Heritage Trust and Historic England. The government provided £80 million to English Heritage to become a charitable trust.