Wellington Street, WC2E

Place Name

Before Waterloo Bridge was built this was a small passage running alongside Somerset House called St Mary Le Strand and before that Somerset Water Gate. The section between the Strand and Tavistock Street was newly built and named after the Duke; the northern section was previously Charles Street, part of there Covent Garden development of 1631 and named in honour of Charles I.  Arthur Wellesley (May 1, 1769 – September 14, 1852), 1st Duke of Wellington was commander at the Battle of Waterloo and two time Tory Prime Minister – he became known as the Iron Duke. Born in Dublin he joined the army in 1787, going on to command in India. Wellington was widely feted for his brilliance on the battlefield as the head of a coalition force of British, Belgian, Dutch and German troops fighting against the French in 1815. He rose to prominence as a general during the Peninsular campaign of the Napoleonic Wars, and was promoted to the rank of field marshal after leading the allied forces to victory against the French Empire at the Battle of Vitoria in 1813. Following Napoleon’s exile in 1814, he served as the ambassador to France and was granted a dukedom. During the Hundred Days in 1815, he commanded the allied army which, together with a Prussian Army under Blücher, defeated Napoleon at Waterloo. He is famous for his adaptive defensive style of warfare, resulting in several victories against numerically superior forces while minimising his own losses. Despite his concern for his men’s welfare, he remained aloof  and was said to disapprove of soldiers cheering as “too nearly an expression of opinion.” After the end of his active military career, he returned to politics. He was twice Tory prime minister from 1828 to 1830 and for a little less than a month in 1834. He oversaw the passage of the Roman Catholic Relief Act 1829, but opposed the Reform Act 1832. He continued as one of the leading figures in the House of Lords until his retirement and remained Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until his death. Gillian Bebbington in London Street Names writes that he was “such a productive source of street names for nineteenth-century builders that he almost came to rival the royal family in this respect”. Indeed the A to Z Atlas of London listed more than 50 streets named after him, plus many more after his famous battles. Bebbington adds: “After Waterloo Wellington, like Churchill after the 2nd World War, lost a lot of support during an unsuccessful term as Tory Prime Minister, and there were violent demonstrations near Apsley House, his town home at Hyde Park Corner. However, also like Churchill, public respect for his military leadership remained undiminished, and streets and pubs named Apsley and Walmer, after his country residence of Walmer Castle in Kent, continued to appear through his declining years.”

 

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