Category Archives: United Kingdom

Apsley House – The Wellington Museum




Apsley House, home of the first Duke of Wellington, is one of the capital’s finest residences. Famously known as ‘No.1 London’, its sumptuous interiors house the Duke’s outstanding collection of paintings, porcelain, silver, sculpture, furniture, medals and memorabilia.

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Apsley House was designed and built by Robert Adam 1771-78. Here the Duke made his London home after a dazzling military career in India, Portugal and Spain, culminating in his victory over Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815. Wellington enlarged the house, adding on the spectacular 90ft long Waterloo Gallery, and enriched it with his magnificent art collection. It has been the London home of the Dukes of Wellington ever since.

theheroThe seventh Duke gave the house and contents to the Nation in 1947, with apartments retained for the family. Responsibility for the public areas was given to the Victoria and Albert Museum. The buildings and interiors were restored 1992-5 to their magnificent appearance in the first Dukeís day.

Alnwick Castle


Dating from the 11th century, the timber motte castle at Alnwick was reconstructed of stone during the early part of the 12th century. However, it was a further 200 years before the castle began to take on the resplendent appearance that it is now such a familiar sight.

When Henry Percy bought Alnwick Castle in 1309, he and his son set about shaping it into a dominant stronghold by strengthening the curtain walls, creating numerous flanking towers, adding gatehouses to both the inner and outer baileys, as well as constructing a barbican for further fortification.

Alnwick Castle – Looking towards the Dining Room across the inner bailey with Constable’s Tower to the right The Wars of the Roses and the Civil War took their toll on Alnwick Castle, and some 400 years later it had fallen into a state of decay. However, during the 18th century the abandoned castle was transformed into a comfortable country mansion under the guidance of Robert Adam, renowned for his Gothic architecture. Vast amounts of restoration work were carried out, even to the extent of the keep being reduced to foundation level and rebuilt in places. Some buildings were completely remodelled or replaced, and new ones were added. New landscapes were created and the site of the medieval garderobes was rebuilt as a gateway from the castle into the new gardens.

alnwick2Internally, most of Adam’s work was superseded in the late 19th century when the 4th Duke of Northumberland had palatial interiors created in the fashionable classical Italian designs. The medieval great hall was retained as the principal dining room. In the Prudhoe Tower, a luxurious library housing some 16,000 volumes of work occupies the whole of one floor. In fact, the entire castle is a showpiece of Victorian extravagance – from its fine art collections and gilded furniture, to its lavish mosaic floors and stucco ceilings.

Alnwick Castle can justly be described as gloriously majestic. Its impressive strength and imposing appearance are offset by the intricate attention to detail as seen in the decorative archways, shields and stone-carved figures that adorn the walls, gateways and battlements.

Aberystwyth Castle

aberystwyth_castleIn the marvellous sweep of Cardigan Bay stand the ruins of one of Edward I’s late 13th century castles. Of the seven major English strongholds he established in Wales, Aberystwyth has fared least favourably in the survival stakes. Now little more than a few fragmented chunks of masonry displayed in a well-kept public park, the castle has lost its imposing hold on the town.

At one time guarded by one of the largest Iron Age forts in West Wales, Aberystwyth has been a place of strategic importance throughout history. The first Norman castle, built on a site further south, was begun by Gilbert de Clare but this has long since disappeared, having been destroyed and rebuilt numerous times during 200 years of political and family feuding. When Edward I begun his castle in 1277, it was a magnificent lozenge-plan concentric building of two stone curtain enclosures, flanked by sturdy round towers. Each curtain had a twin-towered gatehouse, the smaller outer gate leading to a barbican, and the inner gatehouse a substantial fortress with domestic accommodation. Excavations have revealed that a great hall stretched from this gatehouse to the south tower of the inner curtain, some 60ft long (18.3m) and 42ft wide (12.8m).

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