Address: 10 Downing Street, London, SW1A 2AA


Phone: 0207 925 0918

Entry Information:Not open to the public

800m from Charing Cross

400m from Westminster

10 Downing Street – the most famous front door in Britain and home to the Prime Minister for nearly 300 years. Occupants have included Walpole, Pitt, Disraeli, Gladstone, Lloyd George, Churchill and Thatcher.

The normal television view from across the street doesn’t show the full picture for two reasons. Firstly the black front door, which can only be opened from the inside, gives the impression of a small, terraced townhouse. How wrong can you be! The residence has about 100 rooms and is the combination of three properties – the townhouse, a cottage and a mansion overlooking St James’ Park called ‘the house at the back’, there’s also a courtyard. The second reason is that what looks like a normal street outside, is in reality one that is rarely used, being fenced off with security gates at both ends.

The origins of the site are known to have included Roman and Saxon occupation. In 1530 Henry VIII built the enormous Whitehall Palace of which the site of the current Downing Street was part. The palace was destroyed by fire in 1698 with only the Banqueting Hall remaining today.

The townhouses were built in 1694 by Sir George Downing, a spy who was employed by both Oliver Cromwell and Charles II. He had to wait 30 years for a contractual dispute to be finalised before developing the area, selling to wealthy people and nearby politicians. The location was good, but the workmanship was not, being famously criticised by Sir Winston Churchill. This necessitated renovations over the years, most notably in the 1960-80’s.

The first resident Prime Minister was Robert Walpole in 1735 and the trend continued, although the occasional PM lived off site. Apart from their residence, the buildings are used to receive guests and host receptions. They also serve as offices for the Prime Minister and staff.

The viewing may be restricted, but that doesn’t stop it being one of the most popular London landmarks.

Click on the pics below for an enlarged view and use the arrow towards the right edge of each pic to go on to the next.