10 Downing Street - History and Facts | History Hit

10 Downing Street

London, England, United Kingdom

Lily Johnson

01 Jan 2021
Image Credit: Wikimedia / OGL

About 10 Downing Street

10 Downing Street in London is the traditional residence of the British Prime Minister, and in its 300-year-old history has witnessed some of the country’s most important political decisions. From Winston Churchill to Margaret Thatcher, a host of Britain’s leaders have walked through its iconic black door, and today it is considered one of the most recognisable buildings in the country.

10 Downing Street history

In 1732, Britain’s first Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole was offered 10 Downing Street as a residence by George II, when it then consisted of 3 separate buildings. Walpole and architect William Kent converted these 3 buildings into a single large one, known collectively by its now-famous address and connected to each other by the Treasury Passage.

Despite its current fame, 10 Downing Street was not a popular choice of residence for Britain’s early Prime Ministers however, and even risked being demolished many times. The 20th century saw its revival when Arthur James Balfour established it as his official residence as Prime Minister in 1902, having already been living there as First Lord of the Treasury.

Since that time, 10 Downing Street has been the location from which Prime Ministers have run the country and entertained heads of state and governments from around the world. 10 Downing Street’s black door hides a warren of offices and state rooms as well as numerous conference rooms, dining rooms, private apartments, kitchens and cellars.

The fates of the First and Second World Wars have been discussed inside, as well as decisions regarding the British Empire, the building of the nuclear bomb, and the creation of the welfare state.

10 Downing Street today

Today 10 Downing Street remains the residence of Britain’s Prime Minister and thus a working governmental building. Though it is not possible to tour 10 Downing Street’s interior, except of course by invitation, the official website has a virtual tour and several audio files detailing the building’s history and that of its residents.

The site’s exterior can be also be seen from its imposing black gates at the end of the street, with tourists often flocking there to snap a photograph of its iconic entrance, thought to be the most photographed door in the country!

In the heart of London, the nearby area also features some of the city’s most-visited sites, with the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey just a 10-minute walk away.

Getting to 10 Downing Street

10 Downing Street is located in Westminster, and can be viewed by the public from the gates on Whitehall. The nearest tube station is Westminster, an 8-minute walk away, while the nearest train station is Charing Cross Station, a 10-minute walk away. A number of bus routes operate to the area, with the nearest stop the Banqueting House or Parliament Square stop, both around a 1-minute walk away.

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