THE DUKE OF WELLINGTON AND THE ATHENAEUM CLUB

‘On the pavement outside the Athenaeum Club, on Waterloo Place near the junction with Pall Mall, is a pair of unassuming granite stones.’

Around London there are many monuments to the late, great Duke of Wellington (1769-1852), such as the Wellington Arch in Hyde Park Corner, his sarcophagus in St Paul’s Cathedral and an equestrian statue of him outside the Royal Exchange in the City of London to name but a few. There are also many buildings connected to the Duke, such as Apsley House on Hyde Park Corner.

While Wellington’s belongings can be seen in museums and stately homes, one piece of memorabilia remains on a busy London street, with thousands passing it each day unaware of the meaning. On the pavement outside the Athenaeum Club, on Waterloo Place near the junction with Pall Mall is a pair of unassuming granite stones. To those walking by, they may not even be noticed at all or dismissed it as a plain piece of London street furniture.

The Athenaeum Club in London’s Pall Mall is one of the most famous gentlemen’s clubs. Established in 1824, its illustrious membership has included Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Winston Churchill. However, none of its members has ever received the same treatment from the club as the Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Following a request from the Duke, the Athenaeum ordered a pair of granite stones to allow the duke, in his old age, to mount and dismount his horse outside the club. And they are still there today, positioned on the kerb facing the front door where they have been lying for the past 170 years. On the stones is a plaque that reads, ‘This horse-block was erected by desire of the Duke of Wellington 1830’. Whether they also permitted other members of the club to take advantage of the duke’s steps is unknown.

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