Historic Houses of London
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Historic Houses of London

London, as one of the world's greatest cities with a long and colorful history, abounds with countless historic houses, a majority of which are opened to the public for receptions or meetings. Some of these historic houses have been turned into museums, where visitors can see displays that give glimpse into the lives of their famous former or even current residents. Let's take a tour to some of the historic houses located in London.

Clarence House

Clarence House was designed by John Nash for William IV in 1827.  Currently, it is the London home of the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry.  The public gains access to the luxurious ground floor once a year.

Apsley House

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Located on the southeast corner of the Hyde Park, Apsley House was completed by Robert Adam for Baron Apsley in 1778.  Fifty years later, it was enhanced by the architects Benjamin and Philip Wyatt to provide the Duke of Wellington a grand home befitting his stature.  Set against a backdrop of silk drapes and gilt decoration hang the duke's fine collection consisting of masterworks by Goya, Brueghel, and Rubens, and delicate porcelain, silver and furniture.  An exhibition of the duke's possessions includes swords and medals, but is dominated by Canova's colossal statue of Napoleon, whom Wellington defeated at Waterloo in 1815, wearing only a fig leaf.

Lancaster House

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Lancaster House is a royal residence built in 1825 by Benjamin Wyatt for the Duke of York.  In 1848, Chopin performed here for the Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Duke of Wellington.  It is currently used as a conference center.

Fenton House

Built in 1686, Fenton House is the oldest mansion in Hampstead.  This superb William and Mary house holds two specialized exhibitions that are open to the public during summer:  a collection of Benton-Fletcher early keyboard instruments, most in working order, including an early 17th-century harpsichord believed to have been played by Handel and still used for concerts held in the house; and a fine collection of porcelain, largely accumulated by Lady Binning. 

Spencer House

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Spencer House was constructed in 1766 for first Earl Spencer, an ancestor of the late Diana, Princess of Wales.  This Palladian palace has been entirely restored to its 18th-century grandeur to the tune of £18 million.  It houses some great paintings and contemporary furniture; one of the highpoints is the exquisitely adorned Painted Room.  The house is available to the public for guided tours, functions and conferences.

Keats House

Originally two semi-detached houses erected in 1816, the smaller one became the romantic poet John Keat's home in 1818.  "Ode to the Nightingale," Keats's most famous poem, was written under a plum tree in the garden.  Keats became engaged to Fanny, the daughter of the Brawne family, who moved into the larger house the following year, but died of consumption at only 25 years old in Rome in 1821 before marriage could take place. In 1925, Keats house was opened to the public.  Collections on display include a copy of one of Keats's love letters to Fanny, the engagement ring he offered her, facsimiles of some of Keats's manuscripts and other items that serves as a tribute to his life and work.

Marlborough House

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Completed in 1711, Marlborough House was designed for the Duchess of Marlborough by Christopher Wren, one of the most celebrated architects in history.  It was significantly expanded in the 19th century and used by members of the Royal Family.  From 1863 until he was crowned Edward VII in 1901, it was the residence of the Prince and Princess of Wales.  An Art Nouveau-inspired memorial fountain in the Marlborough Road wall of the house was designed by English sculptor Alfred Gilbert in honor of Alexandra, Edward's queen. 

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Comments (1)

London is on my bucket list.  Your articles are so well done.