One of the hightlights of the Open House peregrinations yesterday was a visit to Apsley House. Now I have to confess that I only became aware of this building quite recently but the actual visit was quite an eye-opener. For those as ignorant as me, Apsley House is the London home of the Dukes of Wellington, bestowed on the First Duke, Arthur Wellesley, for services rendered. It is at Hyde Park Corner, near the site of the old turnpike at what was then the western limit of London, hence its unofficial address of No. 1 London.
It’s a magnificent honey-coloured Georgian mansion with a raised portico of corinthian columns and beautifully appointed rooms. So far so heritage, ho hum. But what stunned me was the sheer volume of honours that were bestowed on Wellington, all represented here. And the gifts!
I would categorise the honours as being medals, ribbons, sashes, stars, ceremonial swords and Field Marshal batons. The gifts comprised mainly dinner services, trophies, goblets, shields, candlabra, historical scale models and portrait paintings, mostly fashioned in fine decorated china or silver by the finest craftsmen of the day, all individually worth an absolute fortune. I particularly enjoyed seeing the portraits by Sir Thomas Lawrence.
I know without looking that all these questions have been properly addressed by learned historians, I’m just looking forward to finding the time to read up on it.