Working down the spring top ten tourist list, the Budman and I spent an incredibly enjoyable couple of hours last weekend at Apsley House and the Wellington Arch. Both are located at the Hyde Park corner tube station, making the ease of access to these two sites way too easy.
Note to self: There are WAY TOO many places like this in London proper to check out...shameful that we have only scratched the surface.
First on the list: Apsley House, home of the first Duke of Wellington and his descendants, has for over 200 years been known as "Number 1 London" because it was the first house encountered after passing the tollgates at the top of Knightsbridge.
Originally, the house was built by Robert Adam (that guy apparently was the only architect in London because he designed everything) between 1771 and 1778 for Baron Apsley. It passed to the Wellesley family in 1807, and then the younder brother, Arthur Wellesley - the Duke of Wellington. For those whose knowledge of history may be lacking, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napolean at the Battle of Waterloo as well as becoming one of Britain's Prime Ministers later in life.
The house is filled with many original furnishings, fabrics, and artwork that were collected throughout the Duke's lifetime, either as gifts from various countries and its rulers, or through the spoils of war. Of particular note, is the sword the Duke of Wellington used at Waterloo, the magnificent china room which contains the Wellington shield, the giant Canova nude statue of Napolean, and various paintings, including a Caravaggio...just to name a few.
Today, the house is owned by the nation but the current Duke of Wellington and his family live in private quarters in the house. No, we were not offered a cup of tea and look-see into this area.
For more information on Apsley House, check out http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/apsley-house/
Literally, right across the street is the companion site, the Wellington Arch.
Wellington Arch was originally built outside Buckingham Palace; however, due to its massive size and traffic congestion the arch was causing , it was moved to its present location in 1882. The impressive bronze Quadriga sculpture (a.k.a. Angel of Peace descending on the chariot of war and drawn by 4 horses) that sits atop the arch was not afixed to the original structure.
Rather, the monument to the Duke of Wellington was the original sculpture placed on top of the arch but due to its size, it was relocated to the left of the arch.
You are allowed to climb to the top of the arch for a view of Hyde Park, Apsley House, as well as Buckingham Palace and palace grounds (from the other side of the arch).
Two sites down...eight to go!