History of 10 Downing Street (2023)

Introduction — by Sir Anthony Seldon

10 Downing Street, seat of the British Prime Minister since 1735, rivals the White House as the most important political building in the world of modern times. Behind its black door were taken the most important decisions to affect Great Britain in the last 275 years.

Only in the 20th century, the First and Second World Wars were avoided, as well as the central decisions about the end of the empire, the construction of the British atomic bomb, the overcoming of the economic crises of the Great Depression of 1929 to the Great Recession and the development of the welfare state.

Some of the most famous political figures in modern history have lived and worked at Number 10, including Robert Walpole, Pitt the Younger, Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.

The number 10 has 3 overlapping functions. It is the official residence of the British Prime Minister: it is her office and it is also where the Prime Minister receives guests from Her Majesty The Queen to Presidents of the United States and other world leaders. The Prime Minister organizes numerous receptions and events for a range of British and foreign guests, with charity receptions topping the list.

The building is much larger than it appears from the facade. The chessboard-floored hallway just beyond the front door leads to a maze of rooms and stairs. The Downing Street house was joined to a more spacious and elegant building behind it in the early 18th century. Number 10 has also spilled over to the left of the front door, taking up much of 12 Downing Street, which is accessed via a corridor that runs past 11 Downing Street - the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Explore 10 Downing Street

Take a virtual tour of 10 Downing Street and explore Downing Street's most iconic rooms and significant eventsGoogle Cultural Institute.

Origins and first residents

The area around Downing Street was home to ancient Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman settlements and was a prestigious government center for 1,000 years.

The Romans first arrived in 55 BC. BC under the command of Julius Caesar to Great Britain. The Romans made their capital at downriver Londinium and chose Thorney Island - a swampy piece of land lying between two branches of the River Tyburn, which ran from Hampstead Heath to the Thames - as the site for their initial settlement.

These Roman settlements, and those of the Anglo-Saxons and Normans they supplanted, were not very successful. The area was prone to the plague and its inhabitants were very poor. A charter issued by the Mercian king Offa in 785 refers to "the dreadful place called Thorney Island". It took royal patronage to bring prestige to the area. King Canute (r. 1017–1035) built a palace in the area, and Edward the Confessor (r. 1042–66) and William the Conqueror (r. 1066–1087) maintained a royal presence there. Westminster's position (as the area came to be known) as the center of government and the Church was consolidated after the construction of the great abbey nearby on Edward's orders.

History of 10 Downing Street (1)

The oldest building known to have stood on the Downing Street site was the Ax Brewery, which belonged to Abingdon Abbey in medieval times. By the early 1500s, it had fallen into disrepair.

Henry VIII (r. 1509-1547) further enhanced Westminster's importance by establishing an extravagant royal residence there.

Whitehall Palace came into being when Henry VIII seized York House from Cardinal Wolsey in 1530 and expanded the complex. Present-day Downing Street lies on the edge of the palace grounds.

The massive residence included tennis courts, a tournament yard, a bocce ball court, and a cockpit for birdfights. Stretching from St James's Park to the River Thames, it was the official residence of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs until it was destroyed by fire in 1698. It made the surrounding properties some of the most important and valuable in London - and the natural home of power.

The first residence known to have been built on the site of number 10 was a large building rented in 1581 by Queen Elizabeth I (reigned 1558‒1603) to Sir Thomas Knyvet. He was a favorite of the Queen and was MP for Thetford and Justice of the Peace for Westminster. Its claim to fame was the arrest of Guy Fawkes for his part in the Gunpowder Plot of 1605. He was knighted in 1604 by Elizabeth's successor, King James I (reigned 1603‒25), and the house was enlarged.

After the deaths of Sir Knyvet and his wife, the house passed to his niece, Elizabeth Hampden, who lived there for the next 40 years.

The mid-17th century was a time of political turmoil and Mrs. Hampden was in the middle of it. Her son John Hampden was one of the MPs who opposed King Charles I (reigned 1625‒49) and Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector, was a nephew of Mrs. Hampden.

Hampden House, as it was then known, gave Mrs. Hampden a first-class look at the tumultuous events of the Civil and Commonwealth War and the early years of the Restoration.

The execution of Charles I in 1649 took place on a scaffold outside the Banqueting House in Whitehall, within earshot of the house. Lady Hampden was still living there when King Charles II (reigned Scotland from 1649 to 1685) was restored to the English throne in 1660.

Parliamentary commissioners who took over the crown lands during the Commonwealth period described the house in 1650:

Built partly in brick and partly in wood and Flemish qalle and covered in tiles, it consists of a large and spacious hall, paneled round, well lit and paved with a brick floor, two parles, one of which is paneled from the fences to the ground, a pantry, a shop, a large kitchen, well paved with stone and well fitted and articulated and well equipped with cupboards.

And over the railings on the first floor, a large and spacious dining room, paneled from ceiling to floor, beautifully flowered, lighted and paneled, and furnished with a handsome fireplace with a tiled floor. Also 6 more bedrooms and 3 closets on the same floor, all well lit and fenced. And in the second story 4 Garretts...

The Creation of Downing Street

George Downing gave his name to the most famous street in the world. Too bad he was such a nasty person. As a diplomat and government official, he was petty and sometimes brutal.

However, George Downing was responsible for the street, its name and the building we know today. A former diplomat in The Hague serving the Commonwealth, he subtly switched allegiances. He exchanged enough secrets to obtain a royal pardon in March 1660 and be knighted in the Restoration in May 1660.

(Video) The History of 10 Downing Street

Interested in power and money, he saw an opportunity to make his fortune in the estate. He had already acquired the Crown's share of the land around Hampden House, but was unable to take it as it was leased to Knyvet's descendants. In 1682 he secured the lease on the property and commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to design the houses.

Between 1682 and 1684 existing lots were demolished and a dead end of 15 to 20 terraced houses built in their place along the north side of the new Downing Street. To maximize profits, houses were built cheaply, with precarious foundations for the marshy terrain. Instead of brick facades, mortar lines were placed to give the appearance of evenly spaced bricks. In the 20th century, Prime Minister Winston Churchill wrote that the number 10 was:

Oscillating and lightly built by the freeloader whose name they bear.

However, a rather important neighbor complained. The new homes are built directly behind a large impressive home overlooking Horse Guards. Its owner, the Countess of Lichfield, daughter of Charles II, was not at all pleased with the appearance of the undesirable courtyard beyond. She complained to her father, who wrote back with advice:

I think it very sensible that other houses should not look at your house without your permission, and this warning will be enough for Mr. Surveyor build your wall as high as you want.

The original numbering of the houses on Downing Street was very different from what it is today. The order of numbers was random, and houses were generally known by the names or titles of their occupants. The current number 10 began as number 5 and was not renumbered until 1779.

The Downing Street house has had a number of notable occupants. The Countess of Yarmouth lived at number 10 between 1688 and 1689, followed by Lord Lansdowne from 1692 to 1696 and the Earl of Grantham from 1699 to 1703. Chicken. Little is known about him except that he moved away in the early 1730s.

King George II gave Downing Street House and the House Overlooking Horse Guards to Sir Robert Walpole, who held the title of First Lord of the Exchequer and effectively served as the first Prime Minister. Walpole rejected the property as a personal gift. Instead, he asked the King to make it available to him and future First Lords of the Treasury as their official residence - starting the tradition that continues to this day. The brass mailbox on the black front door is still engraved with this title.

Walpole moved in on 22 September 1735 after the Downing Street town house and the house overlooking Horse Guards had been joined and completely renovated. Walpole engaged the architect William Kent, who had previously worked on Walpole's Norfolk home, Houghton Hall, to carry out the work.

Kent has done extensive work on the 2 houses connecting them across 2 floors. The main entrance now faced Downing Street instead of Horse Guards, and the Downing Street building became a passageway to the main house. At the back of the house where the Walpoles lived, Kent created magnificent new rooms suitable for receiving important guests and built an unusual three-sided staircase. It is still one of the most impressive features of the building.

Walpole used the first floor for business, taking the largest room on the northwest side of the house as an office. This is now the cabinet room. Upstairs, the Walpoles lived in rooms overlooking Horse Guards Parade. Lady Walpole used what is now the White Drawing Room as her sitting room and what is now the Terracotta Room served as her dining room. The Walpoles soon welcomed important guests to their elegant home, including George II's wife, Queen Caroline, politicians, writers and soldiers. Number 10 became - as it still is today - a place of politics and entertainment.

Pelham and Pitt

When Walpole left Downing Street in 1742, over 20 years passed before another First Lord of the Exchequer moved in. His successors saw the house as a merit of their jobs, as did Prime Ministers Henry Pelham (1743-1754) and the Duke of Newcastle (1757-1762) who preferred to live in their own homes.

In 1763, George Grenville (1763–1765) established himself, but was sacked by King George III in 1765 for imposing stamp duties on the American colonies. The next Prime Minister to move to Downing Street was Lord North (1770–82). He was very fond of the house and often stayed there. Visitors included the writer Samuel Johnson and Thomas Hansard, the founder of the parliamentary reporting system still in use today. One guest, Clive of India, was so popular that furniture was made for him, which can still be seen in the first-floor anteroom and terracotta room.

During a memorable dinner hosted by Lord North on 7 June 1780, civil unrest broke out in the street when angry Protestants, dissatisfied with North's policy towards Catholics, rioted in London in what became known as the Gordon Riots. The Grenadier Guards held back a large crowd, a situation which could have ended in bloodshed had North not come out to warn the demonstrators of the danger of being shot, after which the crowd dispersed. North's dinner guests climbed to the top of the house to view the fires burning across London.

Significant improvements were made to the house during North's time, including the addition of many distinctive features: the black and white checkerboard floor in the entrance hall, the lamp above the front door, and the famous lion's head door knocker.

After the loss of the American colonies, North resigned and was succeeded by the Duke of Portland, who was Prime Minister for only 9 months in 1782.

Fall and rise of number 10

At the turn of the 19th century, Downing Street was falling on hard times. Although number 10 continued to serve as the prime minister's office, it was not preferred as a residence. Most prime ministers preferred to live in their own homes.

But by the 1820s, Downing Street had become the center of government. Prime Minister Viscount Goderich commissioned the brilliant and quirky architect Sir John Soane, designer of thebank of englandto make the house more suitable for its prominent role. Soane created the wood-paneled State Dining Room and Small Dining Room for elegant entertaining.

But that wasn't good enough for his successor, Lord Wellington, who only moved in as his own luxurious home,Apsley-Haus, has been renovated. Later leaders such as Lord Melbourne and Viscount Palmerston only used Number 10 as an office and for cabinet meetings. In 1828, number 11 became the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but the surrounding area became increasingly decadent, with brothels and drinking houses multiplying. Things got so bad that in 1839 there were plans to demolish number 10 and the other buildings on the north side of Downing Street to make way for a refurbished Whitehall.

Security has also become an issue. In 1842, Edward Drummond, secretary to Prime Minister Robert Peel (1841–1846), was murdered in Whitehall on his way back to his Downing Street home by an assassin who mistook him for Peel. Downing Street's prestige was further diminished by the construction of the magnificent new Foreign Office building in the late 1860s. George Gilbert Scott's creation, with a huge open courtyard and ornate rooms, eclipsed the number 10 opposite. It even had its own cabinet room, where the cabinet sometimes met, instead of number 10.

When Benjamin Disraeli became prime minister, the house was in disrepair. The living quarters had not been used for 30 years and Disraeli described them as "dirty and run-down". It was time for an upgrade.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, 10 Downing Street was transformed from a humble terraced house into a stately residence with modern facilities - a home and office fit for the country's most powerful politician. Disraeli persuaded the state to pay for the renovation of the entrance halls and public rooms, although he himself paid for the renovation of the private rooms. His own bedroom and dressing room on the first floor were improved, and a bathroom with hot and cold water was installed in the First Lord's dressing room for the sum of £150.3s.6d.

When William Gladstone moved into the house in 1880 he insisted on redecorating and spent £1,555.5 shillings – an enormous sum for the time – on furniture. During his tenure in 1884, electric lighting and the first telephones were installed.

The Marquess of Salisbury, who once succeeded Gladstone, was the last Prime Minister not to live at number 10. Salisbury never liked the closet room, describing it as a "tight space". Preferring to work in the larger Foreign Office office and live in Arlington Street, he offered Number 10 to his nephew, Arthur Balfour, who would later become Prime Minister himself. Balfour was the first resident of number 10 to bring a car into Downing Street.

Over the years more and more changes and improvements were made to the house. When Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald first entered the house, he wanted the number 10 to recapture something of the grandeur it was in the days of Walpole and Pitt. Lacking a proper library (or at least one that contained more than just Hansard's reports), MacDonald set out to create one. He established the Prime Minister's Library, originally housed in the Cabinet Room. The custom of the prime minister and other ministers of donating books to the library continues to this day. In 1937, central heating was installed and work began on transforming the labyrinth of rooms on the top floor, formerly used by employees, into a prime minister's apartment.

Number 10 in war

the first world war

In 1912, after renewed attempts to introduce Irish self-government, Herbert Henry Asquith found himself at odds with Ulster and the Tory opposition. This unrest and bitter opposition continued, and civil war in Ireland was not averted until the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914.

(Video) Inside Downing Street: A brief history of No.10 | Red Box

The Cabinet Room at Number 10 was the nerve center of the British war effort. Asquith's cabinet included future Prime Ministers David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill, in their roles as Chancellor and First Lord of the Admiralty respectively. Asquith was forced into the additional role of Secretary of State for War upon the incumbent's resignation in March 1914, but was quick to appoint Lord Kitchener after the outbreak of war.

On 15 April 1916, Number 10 played host to a meeting between General Haig, Commander-in-Chief of British forces in France, and the Cabinet to discuss the details of the planned Somme offensive, later known as the Battle of the Somme.

During a Cabinet split on 25 May 1915 (caused by public outcry over claims that the army had received fewer shells and the failed Dardanelles offensive, for which Kitchener and Churchill were blamed respectively), Kitchener was stripped of his control. of munitions and strategy, and Churchill lost his post as First Lord of the Admiralty. As a result of the split, Asquith formed a coalition government with opposition Conservatives, chaired by future Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law.

Asquith remained leader of the coalition until his resignation on 5 December 1916. After Andrew Bonar Law refused to form a government, David Lloyd George became leader of the coalition and prime minister on 7 December 1916.

Under Prime Minister Lloyd George, Number 10's staff was expanded and offices moved to the Garden to serve the needs of the War Administration.

Lloyd George immediately formed his "War Cabinet", whose members included Lord Curzon, Bonar Law and Arthur Henderson. In the first 235 days of its existence, the War Cabinet met 200 times.

This cabinet assumed overall responsibility for the war and sat as the Imperial War Cabinet three times when the Prime Ministers of the Holdings attended. It provided a power that the war effort had not previously had.

Highly talented young people were assigned to collect and compile data, bypassing slow government departments. These men gained the nickname "Garden Suburbs" because they lived in cottages at the end of gardens near Downing Street. They did not like obstinate officials, who constantly bypassed them. However, the men from the suburb of Garden gave Lloyd George the one thing Asquith never seemed to have - recent and significant statistics. His work was invaluable, as he provided the War Cabinet with data on sunken merchant ships and agricultural production in Britain, issues that were essential to resolve if the country did not starve in defeat.

When the armistice was finally declared on 11 November 1918, crowds thronged Downing Street and chanted 'LG'. Lloyd George appeared at one of the first-floor windows to greet them.

World War II - Chamberlain

During the 1930s, the eyes of the world were on Europe. With tensions rising between Germany and Czechoslovakia, the prime ministers of France and Britain did their best to avoid another war. On September 12, 1938, thousands gathered in Downing Street to hear Hitler's speech on the last night of the Nazi Party rally in Nuremberg, convinced that Britain was on the brink of war.

As tensions in Europe continued to rise, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain made several attempts to defuse the situation and the number 10 became the focus of international attention. On the morning of September 29, 1938, Chamberlain traveled to Germany for the last time as Prime Minister for talks with French Prime Minister Édouard Daladier, Hitler and Mussolini.

The Munich Agreement was signed and war – for the time being – averted. Before leaving for England, Chamberlain had a private meeting with Hitler, where he obtained his signature on the famous Peace in Our Time document, which declared that any future disputes between Great Britain and Germany would be resolved peacefully.

When Chamberlain returned to Heston Airfield, he was surrounded by a large crowd and delivered the thunderous "Peace in Our Time" speech, waving the document signed by Hitler.

When, after meeting George VI. Returning to Downing Street, the Prime Minister found Downing Street and 10 itself full of people. Chamberlain delivered the speech for the second time from a first-floor window of Number 10:

My good friends, this is the second time that Peace with Honor has returned from Germany to Downing Street. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Now I suggest you go home and sleep soundly in your beds.

But for the next 12 months the tension did not abate, and on September 3, 1939, Chamberlain broadcast to the nation from the Cabinet Room at Number 10, announcing that the country was at war with Germany. Chamberlain resigned as Prime Minister on 10 May 1940 and advised King George VI to put Winston Churchill in charge of forming a government.

When Winston Churchill replaced Chamberlain as Prime Minister, he and his wife moved into the second-floor Downing Street flat, where Churchill did much of his work.

He used to dictate speeches, memos and letters to his secretary while lying in bed with a cigar in his hand in the morning or late at night.

In October 1940, the period of intense bombing known as the Blitz began. On 14 October, a huge bomb fell on Treasury Green, near Downing Street, damaging the kitchen and state rooms of number 10 and killing three policemen on duty with the National Guard. Churchill was having dinner in the Garden Rooms when the air raid began. As he recalled in his memoir Their Finest Hour (1949):

We were having dinner in the garden room of number 10 just as the usual nocturnal attack began. The steel mills were closed. Several loud explosions occurred around us, not far away, and soon a bomb landed, perhaps a hundred yards away, on Horse Guards Parade, making a great deal of noise.

Suddenly I had a providential impulse. The kitchen at 10 Downing Street is large and spacious and overlooks a glass window about 25 feet high. The butler and maid continued to serve dinner with complete detachment, but I became aware of that large window. I got up abruptly, went to the kitchen, told the butler to put dinner on the hot plate in the dining room, and sent the cook and other servants into the shed as it was.

I hadn't been sitting at the table again for about 3 minutes when a very loud bang nearby and a huge shock showed that the house had been hit. My detective came into the room and said that a lot of damage had been done. The kitchen, pantry and treasury offices were destroyed.

The security of Downing Street became a priority for the Prime Minister and the War Cabinet. The garden rooms were reinforced with steel and heavy metal shutters were fitted to the windows to protect against bombing. The Garden Rooms included a small dining room, bedroom and meeting area, which Churchill used during the war. In reality, however, the steel armor would not have protected him from a direct hit.

In October 1939, the cabinet moved from number 10 to secret underground war rooms in the basement of the building department opposite the current Ministry of Foreign Affairs.Churchill War Rooms.

In 1940, after near misses caused by bombs, Churchill and his wife moved from Downing Street to number 10 in the Annex above the war rooms. Furniture and valuables were removed from Number 10 and only the Garden Rooms, the Cabinet Room and the Private Secretariat remained in use.

Churchill disliked living in the annexe, and although it was mostly empty, he continued to use number 10 for work and food.

(Video) "No 10 Downing Street" Program 1 (1985 Documentary) - Jenny Barraclough

Under the house, a reinforced shelter was built for up to 6 people, which can be used by those who work in the house. Even George VI took refuge there when he dined with Churchill in the Garden Rooms. Although bombs continued to damage Number 10, there were no direct attacks on the house, allowing Churchill to continue working and eating there until the end of the war.

Once the war was over, Churchill and his wife returned to Number 10, where he made his Victory in Europe (VE) Day broadcast, broadcast from the Cabinet Room at 3 pm on 8 May 1945.

Falklands Conflict - Margaret Thatcher

On March 19, 1982, the Argentine flag was raised by a group of scrap dealers on the island of South Georgia, a British overseas territory dependent on the Falkland Islands. There had been a long dispute over the sovereignty of the islands between Argentina and the United Kingdom, and this action was seen as a harbinger of the Argentine invasion to follow.

Argentine General Leopoldo Galtieri ordered the invasion of the Falkland Islands to be brought forward to April 2, 1982, to avoid an increase in the United Kingdom's military presence in the region. Margaret Thatcher then dispatched a naval task force to retake the islands, which departed from Portsmouth on 5 April following a cabinet meeting and the passage of a UN resolution.

The Prime Minister spent the night awake in his Downing Street flat during the Falklands conflict. Margaret Thatcher's personal assistant, Cynthia Crawford, who moved into the apartment at number 10 to keep the Prime Minister company during the night vigils, recalls the 74 days of conflict at number 10:

During the war, she never wore pajamas in her apartment. We sat in the flat listening to the BBC World Service for updates on the task force. She couldn't sleep because she wanted to be ready in case something happened.

She wanted to be able to go to all the meetings with the naval commanders at any time without having to dress awkwardly. She also wanted to know everything that was going on, every detail, so that she could keep track of what was going on. She had to know how the soldiers, sailors and airmen were doing.

She was so worried about her. It was awful when we heard any reports of ships being hit. Her determination and perseverance was incredible. Denis was in the next room. The two of us sat in armchairs on either side of a two-bar electric fireplace and listened to the radio.

Crawford remembers the Prime Minister leaving Downing Street at 8am each morning to attend military briefings to hear about the night's events and discuss the next part of the campaign:

I would take advantage of that and jump into bed in the apartment to get some sleep. I would tell the Downing Street clerk to wake me up when she was coming back so I was ready for work. Not all of us have their energy.

The conflict ended with the surrender of Argentina on June 14, 1982. Margaret Thatcher recalled this period:

When I became Prime Minister I never thought I would have to send British troops into battle and I don't think I've ever lived as tensely and intensely as I have during all that time.

Margaret Thatcher - The Downing Street Years.

restoration and modernization

By the 1950s, the physical condition of 10 Downing Street had reached a critical point. Bomb damage exacerbated existing structural problems: the building suffered from subsidence, crooked walls, warped doorframes, and a staggering annual repair bill.

In 1954, the Ministry of Construction carried out an inventory of the state of construction. The report was passed from Winston Churchill (1951 to 1955) to Anthony Eden (1955 to 1957) to Harold Macmillan (1957 to 1963) as Prime Minister followed by Prime Minister. Eventually, a committee created by Macmillan concluded that drastic measures were needed before the building collapsed or caught fire.

The commission proposed a number of options, including the complete demolition of numbers 10, 11 and 12 and their replacement with a new building. This idea was discarded and it was decided to rebuild number 12 and strengthen numbers 10 and 11 and preserve their historic features.

Architect Raymond Erith has been chosen to oversee the work, which is expected to take two years and cost £500,000. It ended up taking a year longer than planned and costing double the original estimate. The foundations were so dilapidated that a massive concrete brace was required.

Number 10 was completely destroyed. Walls, floors and even the pillars in the closet and pillar room were rotten and had to be replaced. New elements were also added, including a room overlooking Downing Street and a balcony at number 11 for the Chancellor.

It was also determined that the well-known external façade was not black but yellow. The blackened paint was a product of two centuries of heavy pollution. To maintain the familiar look, the freshly cleaned yellow bricks were painted black to match the previous color. Erith's work was completed in 1963, but not long after dry rot became apparent and further repairs had to be made.

In the late 1980s, Margaret Thatcher (1979–90) commissioned architect Quinlan Terry to renovate the state halls. Two of the rooms, Salão Branco and Sala Terracota, have decorated stucco ceilings. In the White Drawing Room they included the national emblems of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

All the building work of the last few decades could have been ruined when a terrorist bomb went off in 1991. An IRA mortar was fired from a white van in Whitehall and exploded in the garden of number 10, just meters from where Prime Minister John Major (1990-1997) chaired a cabinet meeting to discuss the Gulf War.

Although no one was killed, it left a crater in the gardens of number 10 and exploded through the windows of neighboring houses. John Major and some of his staff moved to Admiralty Arch while the bomb damage was repaired.

By 2006 at the latest, it became apparent that the Downing Street complex could no longer reliably support the Prime Minister's office. Independent reports revealed that the building was no longer weatherproof, the heating had failed and the information and communication technology (ICT) network was at the limits of its functionality. Power cuts and water leaks were frequent and severely disrupted the daily operations of the prime minister's office.

In addition to age-related deterioration, the pressure on buildings has increased dramatically in recent years with occupancy rising (stable at around 50 for many years) to around 170. In 2006, Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997 to 2007) approved a new improvement program, leaving the building in continuous use. Work has begun to correct the structural flaws, renovate the infrastructure, improve access and improve the building's sustainability.

Structural issues were first addressed, and a phased offsite repair project was launched to fix faulty lead gutters, cracked brickwork, and other structural issues. The distinctive black paintwork was also refreshed, as it had faded in many places, revealing the underlying yellow brickwork. During the work it was discovered that the facade of number 11 Downing Street was unstable and needed to be fixed with 225 stainless steel pins. All work was carried out in consultation withenglish heritage.

Other projects were undertaken to rejuvenate the building's aging infrastructure and replace many of the building's key services, including heating, fire protection, and power distribution. Sustainability is a key feature of the program and in 2011 a 10% reduction in CO2 emissions was achieved. Rainwater harvesting was introduced in 2009 and provides a sustainable source of water for the garden. Accessibility for visitors with disabilities has been greatly improved with the introduction of ramps and the modernization of elevators. Many of the building's public areas have also been restored, including the front entrance hall, dining rooms and small dining rooms, and the office.

An ongoing program is in place to bring the facility up to modern standards and ensure the preservation of this historic building for years to come.

(Video) The Secret World of Whitehall Episode 2 Behind the Black Door

a place of entertainment

Number 10 hosts official events every week, including meetings, receptions, lunches and dinners.

It's not just heads of state and official dignitaries who visit - the events are staged for people from all walks of British society, including notable entrepreneurs, civil servants and charity workers.

Receptions are generally informal gatherings. Lunch and dinner are more formal events. The small dining room seats a maximum of 12 people and the main dining room seats up to 65 people around a large U-shaped table. furSilver Trustto promote modern British craftsmanship.

Installations on timeline number 10

Since 10 Downing Street became the Prime Minister's official residence, the building has served as a home and workplace for British Prime Ministers.

Number 10 has been modernized throughout its history - including new technologies - both to ensure a decent standard of living for its residents and to keep the prime minister at the center of government decisions. Often, the arrival of a new Prime Minister was the impetus for a new technology or upgrade.

Here are some of the most notable developments over 3 centuries of history, from the arrival of hot water to the first tweet:


1877 - Installation of hot and cold running water. The living quarters were renovated for Benjamin Disraeli – including the bathroom.

1894 - Installation of electric lighting and the first telephones. After Disraeli's departure, William Gladstone redecorated the building and supervised the installations.

1902 - First car to enter Downing Street. Arthur Balfour brought the first car and ever since Prime Ministers have sought to select British brands for their official cars, with a procession of Wolseleys, Humbers, Rovers, Daimlers and Jaguars carrying successive Prime Ministers in and out of Downing Street.

1937 – first central heating.

1963 - Electrical and telephone reform. 1963 was a major period of renovation for the building.

1982 - During Margaret Thatcher's first term, the first direct hotline between number 10 and Washington was established.

1982 – Installed the first “microcomputer” and microfilm reader.

1983 - Major introduction of computers to staff number 10 after reviewing building needs.

1990 – First videoconference. John Major used technology from his office.

1996 – Installation of desktop PCs on all workstations.

1996 –the launch of the first website No10.

1998 – Internet access was introduced on the desktops of Number 10 employees.

2002 – Installation of a dedicated videoconferencing suite. This took place after the events of 9/11 and allowed the Prime Minister and his team to directly engage with colleagues around the world.

2005 - A new email account allowed the public to contact the prime minister directly.

2008 – Number 10s eigener Online-TV-Sender – Number10 TV

2008 - number 10's first tweet - and since then there have been over 3,000.

Larry, Chief Mouser for the Cabinet

Larry has been in residence since February 15, 2011. He is the first cat at number 10 to be given the official title of Chief Mouser.

Larry was recruited byCasa Battersea Dogs and Catson recommendation for your mouse skills. He joined No. 10 in the house and made a significant impact.

History of 10 Downing Street (2)

(Video) David Cameron's tour of 10 Downing Street

He has captured the hearts of the British public and press teams often camp out on the doorstep. In return, the nation sends you gifts and treats on a daily basis.

Larry spends his days entertaining guests, inspecting security devices, and testing antique furniture for sleep quality. One of his daily tasks is to think of a solution for the rats occupying the house. Larry says this is still "in the tactical planning phase".


How did 10 Downing Street come about? ›

Between 1682 and 1684, Downing built a cul-de-sac of two-storey town houses with coach-houses, stables and views of St James's Park. Over the years, the addresses changed several times. In 1787 Number 5 became "Number 10". Downing employed Christopher Wren to design the houses.

When did 10 Downing Street became the home of the Prime Minister? ›

10 Downing Street, the locale of British prime ministers since 1735, vies with the White House as being the most important political building anywhere in the world in the modern era. Behind its black door have been taken the most important decisions affecting Britain for the last 275 years.

Who first lived at 10 Downing Street? ›

Number 10 Downing Street had several distinguished residents between 1688 and the early 1730s when King George II presented it to Sir Robert Walpole, then First Lord of the Treasury and effectively the first Prime Minister.

Why are the bricks of 10 Downing Street Black? ›

Fascinating Fact: 10 Downing Street was built out of yellow bricks. Due to London's pollution problems, the house got darker and darker. Today, the bricks are painted black because no one would recognise the building if it was yellow. The building was designed mainly out of rectangles.

What three words did 10 Downing Street say? ›

It is owned by What3words Limited, based in London, England. The system encodes geographic coordinates into three permanently fixed dictionary words. For example, the front door of 10 Downing Street in London is identified by ///slurs. this.

Did Downing Street get bombed in ww2? ›

Damage in the drawing room at 10 Downing Street, London, after a bomb had fallen on Horse Guards Parade on 20 February 1944.

When did Churchill leave Downing Street? ›

Aware that he was slowing down both physically and mentally, he resigned in April 1955.

What is the meaning of Downing Street? ›

Downing Street is the street in London in which the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer live. You can also use Downing Street to refer to the Prime Minister and his or her officials.

How many houses are in Downing Street? ›

How many he built is not clear; most historians say 15, others say 20. The addresses changed several times; Number 10 was numbered 5 for a while, and was renumbered in 1787. Downing employed Sir Christopher Wren to design the houses.

Can you walk down Downing Street? ›

Unfortunately for tourists, 10 Downing Street is not open to the public. As a matter of fact, you can't even walk up to the residence, let alone walk down Downing Street. However, if you're hoping to see the prime minister enter or leave the residence, check to see if the gates are open.

When did Downing Street get closed off? ›

Regular road vehicle access was restricted in 1973 when a barrier was installed, but pedestrians could still walk up to the famous door and get their photo taken. In 1982, low level railings were installed across the entrance in response to IRA terrorism and pedestrian access essentially ended at that point.

Where is the original 10 Downing Street? ›

The original Number 10 door is a centrepiece of the Churchill museum in London. It was replaced with two identical doors that are swapped over whenever they need a spot of maintenance. The famous lion's head doorknocker and the brass letterbox date back to the 1770s.

Why is no 10 door so shiny? ›

The outgoing door is sent for a retouch and repaint before it is reinstalled at No. 10, which explains why it always looks so perfectly shiny.

How much would it cost to buy 10 Downing Street? ›

With the Office for National Statistics noting a substantial increase to UK house price inflation of 14.6% between December 2019 and July 2022 (up from a rate of 0.9% to 15.5%) this means that 10 Downing Street would be worth in the region of £6,073,800 today as a standalone property.

Why do the police stand outside 10 Downing Street? ›

London, UK - 28 July, 2017: an armed metropolitan police officer stands outside Downing Street (where the Prime Minister of the UK lives) in London, UK. They are guarding it and protecting it from potential terrorist attacks. Horizontal colour image with copy space.

Does 10 Downing Street have a key hole? ›

The door can only be opened from the inside and there is no chance of ever losing the keys, as there's no keyhole! It isn't the only entrance to the property, though – there are other ways in and out used by staff and these can be opened from the outside.

What is written on the letter box of No 10 Downing Street? ›

Answer. Answer: The title of the Prime Minister, before he was called Prime Minister, was the First Lord of the Treasury. And that is what is written on the letterbox of 10 Downing Street. Interestingly, they have two doors, which are changed every six months, so that they can be cleaned and re-decorated in private.

Who invented What 3 words? ›

Our story. Chris Sheldrick used to work in the music industry, organising live events around the world. He quickly discovered that in the music world, people struggle with poor addressing every day.

What did Queen Elizabeth say when Buckingham Palace was bombed? ›

In September 1940, five high explosive bombs were dropped on Buckingham Palace. Rather than move away from the danger, the King and Queen decided to remain at Buckingham Palace in solidarity with those living through the Blitz. The Queen is reported to have said: 'I am glad we have been bombed.

Which British city was bombed the most in ww2? ›

  • The air raid on Coventry on the night of 14 November 1940 was the single most concentrated attack on a British city in the Second World War.
  • Following the raid, Nazi propagandists coined a new word in German - coventrieren - to raze a city to the ground.

What was the most bombed city in England ww2? ›

Hull was the most severely damaged British city or town during the Second World War, with 95 percent of houses damaged. It was under air raid alert for 1,000 hours. Hull was the target of the first daylight raid of the war and the last piloted air raid on Britain.

Who is the longest serving PM in UK? ›

Liz Truss is the shortest-serving former prime minister, resigning after seven weeks. The previous shortest time served was George Canning, who served for less than four months before dying in office. Margaret Thatcher is the longest serving prime minister in modern history serving for over 11 years.

Who is the longest serving prime minister in British history? ›

Longest term

The prime minister with the longest single term was Robert Walpole, lasting 20 years and 315 days from 3 April 1721 until 11 February 1742. This is also longer than the accumulated terms of any other prime minister.

Who was supposed to be prime minister instead of Churchill? ›

Churchill would lead Britain to eventual victory over Nazi Germany five years later but following a general election in July 1945 he was, to his immense disappointment, replaced as prime minister by Clement Attlee.

How much does a house on Downing Street cost? ›

Well, it's possible to work it out, based on its rumoured 3,800 square feet of floor space and the average current value of a square foot of property in the SW1 postcode. Totting up the numbers, the bricks and mortar value of No. 10 Downing Street is an estimated £5.3m.

Why does the PM live at number 11? ›

When Tony Blair became Prime Minister in 1997 he chose to reside in Number 11, rather than Number 10, as it has a larger living area; Blair was living with his wife and their several young children, while Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was still a bachelor.

Who lives at No 10 Downing Street? ›

Number 10 Downing Street is the residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Can you take a photo in front of 10 Downing Street? ›

You can't visit 10 Downing Street; but you can still head to 10 Adam Street, only 800 metres (2,624 ft) away, where you'll find a very similar door, now a hotspot for tourists wanting to take a souvenir photo.

Is there a tunnel from 10 Downing Street to Parliament? ›

It is reported to be connected to Downing Street and the Cabinet Office by a tunnel under Whitehall. Despite rumours, Armed Forces Minister Jeremy Hanley told the House of Commons on 29 April 1994 that "the facility is not connected to any transport system".

Does 10 Downing Street have guards? ›

The MPS can confirm that it does maintain a permanent police presence at Downing Street.

Has Downing Street ever been attacked? ›

The Downing Street mortar attack was carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) on 7 February 1991.

What is the building opposite 10 Downing St? ›

On each side of Whitehall are big stone buildings; they are government offices. In amongst them is Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister.
Tower BridgeTower of LondonSt Paul's Cathedral
The Palace of Westminster (Houses of Parliament)Westminster AbbeyJewel House
4 more rows

What is the most famous door in the world? ›

Top 5 Most Impressive Doors in The World
  1. The Holy Door (St. Peter's Basilica) ...
  2. The Columbus Doors. The Columbus Door at the United States National Capitol building. ...
  3. The Gates of Paradise. ...
  4. Portal of the Last Judgement. ...
  5. The Emperor Door, Hagia Sophia.
27 May 2020

How many rooms has 10 Downing Street got? ›

The Prime Minister's Office is part of the larger Cabinet Office, which currently has around 8,000 staff, although they do not all work in Downing Street. However, No 10, which was originally three houses, is a complex of offices that is much larger than it looks from the outside, comprising around 100 rooms in total.

How often is the door at No 10 painted? ›

There are two doors which are alternated approximately every two years to be repainted. The door cannot be opened from the outside and the letter plate is purely decorative.

Are 10 Downing Street doors automatic? ›

The door is seen opening itself without any intervention. So the question remains who opens the 10 Downing Street door? It turns out that the door of 10 Downing Street cannot be opened from the outside and does not have a keyhole. The door can only be opened from the inside by a guard who is stationed 24 hours a day.

Why does the Prime Minister live at Number 10? ›

When Lord Salisbury retired in 1902, his nephew, Arthur James Balfour, became Prime Minister. It was an easy transition: he was already First Lord of the Treasury and he was already living in Number 10. Balfour revived the custom that Number 10 is the First Lord and Prime Minister's official residence.

What paint do they use on 10 Downing Street door? ›

Futura Aqua 80 is a high gloss paint that will be sure to create the 'Downing Street Door' look. It provides a glossy and durable finish indoors and out on metal and wood.

Has 10 Downing Street ever been bombed? ›

By October 1940, the intense bombing period known as the Blitz began. On 14 October, a huge bomb fell on Treasury Green near Downing Street, damaging the Number 10 kitchen and state rooms, and killing three Civil Servants doing Home Guard duty. Churchill was dining in the Garden Rooms when the air raid began.

Is 10 Downing Street made of black bricks? ›

Fascinating Fact: 10 Downing Street was built out of yellow bricks. Due to London's pollution problems, the house got darker and darker. Today, the bricks are painted black because no one would recognise the building if it was yellow.

Who was Downing Street named after? ›

The building then came into the possession of George Downing. A rather unpleasant individual (Samuel Pepys described him as a “perfidious rogue”) he was nonetheless responsible for the street, its name and for the buildings we know today.

Can you legally swear at a police officer UK? ›

There is no specific offence of swearing at a police officer, and in fact it is not a specific crime of swearing in public, only of causing “harassment alarm or distress” under the Act mentioned above. This requires some evidence of an individual being, or being likely to be, offended by the language used.

Can I refuse to give my name to a police officer UK? ›

You DO NOT have to give your name and address unless the officer points out an offence he / she suspects you have committed. However, not providing your details may lead to you being detained for longer.

What does 10 7 mean as a cop? ›

10-7od Out of service - off duty. 10-8 In service/available for assignment. 10-9 Repeat last transmission.

What is unique about 10 Downing Street door? ›

1) The door of Downing Street hasn't always been black – once it was green! 1908 was a fascinating year for historians. A means-tested pension was introduced, London became the host city of the fifth modern Olympic Games and No. 10's front door was painted a different colour.

Why was the Downing Street declaration significant? ›

The declaration affirmed both the right of the people of Ireland to self-determination, and that Northern Ireland would be transferred to the Republic of Ireland from the United Kingdom only if a majority of its population was in favour of such a move.

Is 10 Downing Street always guarded? ›

Since 1989, entering Downing Street has required passing through a security checkpoint. The street is patrolled by armed police from the Diplomatic Protection Group, and there is usually at least one police officer outside the front door of Number 10.

How often is the door of 10 Downing Street painted? ›

The black oak door is replaced by a blast-proof steel door following an IRA mortar attack on Downing Street. There are two doors which are alternated approximately every two years to be repainted.

Why does 10 Downing Street have two doors? ›

And that is what is written on the letterbox of 10 Downing Street. Interestingly, they have two doors, which are changed every six months, so that they can be cleaned and re-decorated in private.

Why is Number 10 door so shiny? ›

The original black oak door was replaced with a bomb-proof metal one in 1991, after an attack by the Irish Republican Army in which a bomb exploded in the garden. The new door is coated with a high-gloss paint, which keeps it incredibly shiny.

What words are engraved on the letterbox of 10 Downing Street? ›

The engraving on the brass letterbox, 'First Lord of the Treasury', bears the title originally held by Walpole and the same title that all Prime Ministers hold today. The actual door itself has not always been black.

Has the UK ever had a good Prime Minister? ›

Winston Churchill is generally considered one of the greatest prime ministers for his leadership during the Second World War. Clement Attlee, who served as Labour Leader for over 20 years, is almost always very highly rated among prime ministers.

Who signed the Good Friday Agreement? ›

The agreement is made up of two inter-related documents, both agreed in Belfast on Good Friday, 10 April 1998: a multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland's political parties (the Multi-Party Agreement); an international agreement between the British and Irish governments (the British–Irish Agreement).

When was the Good Friday Agreement signed? ›

The Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement, was signed on 10 April 1998. It underpins Northern Ireland's peace, its constitutional settlement, and its institutions.


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(Charlie Webster)
2. Downing Street Through Time
(The Time Travel Artist)
3. Why does the British Prime Minister live at Downing Street?
(British History)
4. 5 Things You Should Know About 10 Downing Street
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5. 10 Downing Street (1930)
(British Pathé)
6. David Cameron's tour of 10 Downing Street
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