london panoramic cityscape
10 Downing StreetLondon
Whitehall
London SW1A 2AA
TfL Fare Zone 1
 
 
Whitehall lies between Trafalgar Square and The Cenotaph and covers the area which was once the Palace of Whitehall. The Palace was the principal royal residence from 1530 until most of it was burnt down in 1698. The Banqueting Hall is all that remains of the great palace.
 
Next door to the Horse Guards is a short street called Downing Street. The most famous address in this street is Number Ten. This seemingly modest house is the home and working office of the Prime Minister of England and his Cabinet.
For security reasons entrance to the street is now closed off with a gate and black railings but it is still possible to look through the railings at the lone London ‘bobby’ standing in front of the black door.
 
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Despite its appearance, No 10 is actually very large and is made up of three houses joined together. It is also accessible from Nos. 11 and 12 and stretches back to overlook Horse Guards Parade. It is conveniently situated almost equidistant from the Queen’s London home at Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.
 
Sir George Downing
Downing Street gained its name from Sir George Downing, a 17th century diplomat. His mother was the sister of American Governor John Winthrop, and in 1638 the Downing family moved to America to live in Salem, Massachusetts. Downing received his education at Harvard College and began life as a chaplain.
 
He returned to England and started a military career with Cromwell’s forces. When the Commonwealth failed he changed horses and became involved in the Restoration of the Monarchy. In 1660 Downing was knighted and rewarded with a grant of very valuable land for building purposes. This land, at the eastern end of St James's Park, became known as Downing Street.
 
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The original house at the back of No 10 was consistently used as a residence for the person occupying a most important position in the Royal Court, the First Lord of the Treasury.
 
Over the centuries this position evolved into the position of Prime Minister, and in 1733 King George II wanted to give “the house at the back”, the property in front (No 10) and the house next door to the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole.
 
Walpole would not accept the properties as his personal gift and insisted that the properties be given to the Office of First Lord of the Treasury. In 1735 the three properties were joined together as one big house.
 
Although it is not possible for the casual visitor to check this, the brass letter box on the black oak door of Number 10 actually has the inscription "First Lord of the Treasury". Another interesting fact is that the door has no keyhole on the outside; it can only be opened from the inside.
 
There is no ‘tourist - general public’ entry into Number 10.
 
To get an idea of what No 10 looks like inside and what goes on in there, visit Number 10’s website  Web:  Prime Minister's Office
 
Getting There
- By Underground
Westminster Station    Circle, District and Jubilee Lines
 
- By Walking
Downing Street can be best reached by a short walk down Whitehall from Westminster Underground Station (and The Houses of Parliament) towards Trafalgar Square, just past the Cenotaph.
 
On the left are the Iron Railings sealing off Downing Street and Number 10. The street is guarded by London Police Officers.
 
Just past Downing Street is the Whitehall Street entrance to Horse Guards and on the opposite side of the road is The Banqueting House.
All in all, an interesting walk.
 
- By Bus
All buses that travel from Trafalgar Square down Whitehall to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, pass 10 Downing Street.
 
- Open Top Tour Bus
Do not forget that Visitors can use their ‘Open Top’ tour bus ticket to travel to Downing Street, Horse Guards, the Banqueting House and the Houses of Parliament precinct.  
 
Google Maps - 10 Downing Street