Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Apsley House

Architects: Robert Adam, 1771-78; remodelled by Benjamin Dean Wyatt, 1819-28.

Now sadly marooned in a sea of traffic, Apsley House provides a rare opportunity to see vestiges of a Robert Adam designed interior in central London.

Today retaining only elements of Adam’s original building, Apsley House has the appearance of a truncated and compressed aristocratic country seat. Customarily given the address 'Number One London,' it was the first house encountered after passing the Knightsbridge tollgate; the point where the gravel of the turnpike gave way to the paved streets of the capital. The residence was initially built for the Lord Chancellor, Baron Apsely, but gained fame as the London home of the Duke of Wellington who took possession in 1817. The house was opened to the public in 1853, shortly after the duke’s death, and acquired by the nation in 1947, although parts are still occupied by the duke’s descendants.

Adam's design incorporated an existing stable on the site, and was a brick construction that aligned with the other homes along Piccadilly. Some changes were made by James Wyatt in the early 1800s but the house was transformed under the architectural supervision of his son, Benjamin Dean Wyatt, who designed extensions, added the portico, and clad the home in Bath stone between 1819 and 1828. Of Adam’s original interiors, the best remaining parts are found in the Portico Room and Drawing Room (with an apse at one end), and include the ceilings, some friezes and a fireplace. His impressive semicircular staircase has also survived. Transformed by Wyatt into a Regency mansion saturated with deep red and gold interiors, the home went through another drastic change under the post-World War II Hyde Park improvement scheme that re-routed Park Lane. The house that once signalled arrival in the metropolis was left stranded when surrounding buildings were demolished. 

Best time to visit: open Wednesday-Sunday 11am-5pm between early April and early November; open Saturday-Sunday 10am-4pm between November and March.

Address: 149 Piccadilly, London W1J 7NT.

1 comment:

  1. Thankfully, as mentioned, it survived the ironic post-war debacle assigned to London that the Luftwaffe missed. Also, thank heaven it was re-faced in Bath stone, rarer to London - imagine it in brick alongside Constitution Arch!!! (Or nearly as bad, Portland Stone!).