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Downing Street is a street in the City of Westminster that houses the
official residence An official residence is the residence at which a nation's head of state, head of government, governor, religious leader, leaders of international organizations, or other senior figure officially resides. It may or may not be the same location ...
s and offices of the
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government in the United Kingdom. The prime minister chairs the Cabinet and selects its ministers, and advises the sovereign on the exercise of much of the Royal Prerogative. As modern p ...
and the
Chancellor of the Exchequer The Chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the Chancellor, is a high ranking Minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of Her Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Great Offices of State, the chancell ...
. Situated off
Whitehall Whitehall is a road and area in the City of Westminster, Central London. The road forms the first part of the A3212 road from Trafalgar Square to Chelsea. It is the main thoroughfare running south from Trafalgar Square towards Parliament Square ...

Whitehall
, a few minutes' walk from the
Houses of Parliament The Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Informally known as the Houses of Parliament after its occupants, the Palace lies ...
, Downing Street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing. For more than three hundred years, it has held the official residences of both the
First Lord of the Treasury The First Lord of the Treasury is the head of the commission exercising the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer in the United Kingdom, and is by convention also the Prime Minister. This office is not equivalent to the usual position of the "Tr ...
, the office now synonymous with that of the Prime Minister, and the
Second Lord of the Treasury The Chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the Chancellor, is a high ranking Minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of Her Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Great Offices of State, the chancell ...
, the office held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Prime Minister's official residence is
10 Downing Street 10 Downing Street in London, also known colloquially in the United Kingdom as Number 10, is the official residence and office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the capacity of First Lord of the Treasury. Along with the adjoining Cab ...
; the Chancellor's official residence is Number 11. The government's
Chief Whip The Chief Whip is a political office whose task is to administer the whipping system that tries to ensure that members of the party attend and vote as the party leadership desires. United Kingdom In British politics, the Chief Whip of the gove ...
has an official residence at Number 12. In practice, the individuals involved may live in different flats; the current Chief Whip actually lives at Number 9. The houses on the south side of the street were demolished in the 19th century to make way for government offices now occupied by the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), created in 2020 through the merger of the former Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)—commonly called the Foreign Office (FO)—and the former Department for International Development (DFI ...
. The term "Downing Street" is used as a
metonym Metonymy () is a figure of speech in which a thing or concept is referred to by the name of something closely associated with that thing or concept. Etymology The words ''metonymy'' and ''metonym'' come from the Greek , , "a change of name", fro ...
for the
Government of the United Kingdom The Government of the United Kingdom, domestically referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
.


History

The street was built in the 1680s by
Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet ( – 1684) was an English statesman, soldier, diplomat and spymaster and preacher, whose allegiances notably changed during his career, and after whom Downing Street in London is named. As Teller of the Exche ...
, on the site of a mansion, Hampden House. It is not known what was on the site before the mansion, but there is evidence of a brewhouse called 'The Axe', owned by the
Abbey of Abingdon Abingdon Abbey was a Benedictine monastery also known as St Mary's Abbey located in Abingdon, historically in the county of Berkshire but now in Oxfordshire, England. History The abbey was supposedly founded in 675 either by Cissa, viceroy of Ce ...
. Downing was a soldier and diplomat who served under
Oliver Cromwell Oliver Cromwell (25 April 15993 September 1658) was an English general and statesman who, first as a subordinate and later as Commander-in-Chief, led armies of the Parliament of England against King Charles I during the English Civil War, subs ...
and King Charles II, and who invested in properties and acquired considerable wealth. In 1654, he purchased the lease on land east of Saint James's Park, adjacent to the House at the Back, and within walking distance of Parliament. Downing planned to build a row of townhouses "for persons of good quality to inhabit".Minney, p. 28. However, the Hampden family had a lease which prevented their construction for 30 years. When the Hampden lease expired, Downing received permission to build further west to take advantage of recent developments. The new warrant issued in 1682 reads: "Sir George Downing ... s authorisedto build new and more houses further westward on the grounds granted him by the patent of 1663/4 Feb. 23. The present grant is by reason that the said Cockpit or the greater part thereof is since demolished; but it is to be subject to the proviso that it be not built any nearer than 14 feet of the wall of the said Park at the West end thereof." Between 1682 and 1684, Downing built the
cul-de-sac , England File:Cul de sac.jpg, A dead end in Alicante, Spain A dead end, also known as a cul-de-sac (, from French for 'bag-bottom'), no through road or no exit road, is a street with only one inlet or outlet. The term "dead end" is understood ...
of two-storey townhouses with coach-houses, stables and views of St James's Park. 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 Sir Christopher Wren PRS FRS (; – ) was one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history, as well as an anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist. He was accorded responsibility for rebuilding 52 churches in t ...
to design the houses. Although large, they were put up quickly and cheaply on soft soil with shallow foundations. The fronts had facades with lines painted on the surface imitating brick mortar.
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill, (30 November 187424 January 1965) was the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1940 to 1945, during the Second World War, and again from 1951 to 1955. Apart from two years between 1922 and 1924, ...

Winston Churchill
wrote that Number 10 was "shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name they bear". The upper end of the Downing Street cul-de-sac closed access to
St James's Park St James's Park is a park in the City of Westminster, central London. It is at the southernmost tip of the St James's area, which was named after a leper hospital dedicated to St James the Less. It is the most easterly of a near-continuous chai ...
, making the street quiet and private. An advertisement in 1720 described it as "a pretty open Place, especially at the upper end, where are four or five very large and well-built Houses, fit for Persons of Honour and Quality; each House having a pleasant Prospect into St James's Park, with a Tarras Walk". The houses had several distinguished residents. The Countess of Yarmouth lived at Number 10 between 1688 and 1689, Lord Lansdowne from 1692 to 1696 and the
Earl of GranthamEarl of Grantham was a title in the Peerage of England created once on 24 December 1698, along with the titles Viscount Boston, of Boston in the County of Lincoln, and Baron Alford, of Alford in the County of Lincoln, for Henry de Nassau d'Auverquerq ...
from 1699 to 1703. The diarist
James Boswell James Boswell, 9th Laird of Auchinleck (; 29 October 1740 (N.S.) – 19 May 1795), was a Scottish biographer, diarist, and lawyer, born in Edinburgh. He is best known for his biography of his friend and older contemporary, the English writer Sa ...
took rooms in Downing Street during his stay in London during 1762–63 at a rent of £22 per annum. He records having dealings with prostitutes in the adjacent park. Downing probably never lived in his townhouses. In 1675 he retired to Cambridge, where he died a few months after the houses were completed. His portrait hangs in the entrance foyer of the modern Number 10. The Downing family also built
Downing College, Cambridge Downing College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge and currently has around 650 students. Founded in 1800, it was the only college to be added to Cambridge University between 1596 and 1869, and is often described as the oldes ...
, which was established in 1800, after its founder
Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet (baptised 24 October 1685 – 10 June 1749) was a British landowner and inititially Tory, but later Whig politician who sat in the House of Commons between 1710 and 1749. Through a donation in his will, he was the ...
, left a portion of his estate to establish Downing College when the land became available. (A door from Number 10 is in use in the college.) The houses between Number 10 and Whitehall were acquired by the government and demolished in 1824 to allow the construction of the Privy Council Office,
Board of Trade The Board of Trade is a British government body concerned with commerce and industry, currently within the Department for International Trade. Its full title is The Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of al ...
and
Treasury A treasury is either *A government department related to finance and taxation, a finance ministry. *A place or location where treasure, such as currency or precious items are kept. These can be state or royal property, church valuables or in priv ...
offices. In 1861, the houses on the south side of Downing Street were replaced by purpose-built government offices for the
Foreign Office Foreign may refer to: Government * Foreign policy, how a country interacts with other countries * Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in many countries ** Foreign Office, a department of the UK government ** Foreign office and foreign minister * United St ...
,
India Office 275px, The western or park end of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's building in 1866. It was then occupied by the Foreign and India Offices, while the Home and Colonial Offices occupied the Whitehall end. The India Office was a British gover ...
,
Colonial Office The Colonial Office was a government department of the Kingdom of Great Britain and later of the United Kingdom, first created to deal with the colonial affairs of British North America but needed also to oversee the increasing number of colonies ...
, and the
Home Office The Home Office (HO), also known (especially in official papers and when referred to in Parliament) as the Home Department, is a ministerial department of the Government of the United Kingdom, responsible for immigration, security, and law and o ...
.


Houses

The corner at Downing Street and Whitehall *1-8 Downing Street were the houses between Number 9 and
Whitehall Whitehall is a road and area in the City of Westminster, Central London. The road forms the first part of the A3212 road from Trafalgar Square to Chelsea. It is the main thoroughfare running south from Trafalgar Square towards Parliament Square ...

Whitehall
that were taken over by the government and demolished in 1824 to allow the construction of the Privy Council Office, Board of Trade and Treasury offices. *9 Downing Street is the location of the Downing Street Press Briefing Room. It formerly held the offices for previous ministerial departments which have since been dissolved or moved. *
10 Downing Street 10 Downing Street in London, also known colloquially in the United Kingdom as Number 10, is the official residence and office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom in the capacity of First Lord of the Treasury. Along with the adjoining Cab ...
is the official residence of the
First Lord of the Treasury The First Lord of the Treasury is the head of the commission exercising the ancient office of Lord High Treasurer in the United Kingdom, and is by convention also the Prime Minister. This office is not equivalent to the usual position of the "Tr ...
, the
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom The prime minister of the United Kingdom is the head of government in the United Kingdom. The prime minister chairs the Cabinet and selects its ministers, and advises the sovereign on the exercise of much of the Royal Prerogative. As modern p ...
. The two roles have been filled by the same person since the 1720s with almost no exceptions. It has fulfilled this role since 1735. Originally three houses, Number 10 was offered to Robert Walpole, Sir Robert Walpole by George II of Great Britain, King George II in 1732 and now contains approximately 100 rooms. A private residence occupies the third floor and there is a kitchen in the basement. The other floors contain offices and conference, reception, sitting and dining rooms where the Prime Minister works, and where government ministers, national leaders and foreign dignitaries are met and entertained. At the rear is an interior courtyard and a terrace overlooking a garden of 0.5 acres (2,000 m2). Other residents of 10 Downing Street are the Spouse of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Spouse of the Prime Minister and family, Downing Street Director of Communications and Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office. * 11 Downing Street has been the official residence of the
Second Lord of the Treasury The Chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the Chancellor, is a high ranking Minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of Her Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Great Offices of State, the chancell ...
, the
Chancellor of the Exchequer The Chancellor of the Exchequer, often abbreviated to the Chancellor, is a high ranking Minister of the Crown within the Government of the United Kingdom, and head of Her Majesty's Treasury. As one of the four Great Offices of State, the chancell ...
since 1828. The residence was built alongside the official residence of the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street, Number 10 in 1682. *12 Downing Street, formerly the Chief Whip's Office, houses the Prime Minister's Press Office, Strategic Communications Unit and Information and Research Unit. In the 1820s it was occupied by the Judge Advocate General (United Kingdom), Judge Advocate-General, although it remained in private ownership. It entered government hands when purchased by the East India Company in 1863, and was occupied by the marine and railway departments of the
Board of Trade The Board of Trade is a British government body concerned with commerce and industry, currently within the Department for International Trade. Its full title is The Lords of the Committee of the Privy Council appointed for the consideration of al ...
. It was badly damaged by fire in 1879, and underwent further changes. *13 Downing Street was originally part of 12 Downing Street before the housing area was partially re-built and re-numbered in 1876. * 14 Downing Street formerly closed off the western end of the street. It was leased as a town house from 1723 to 1797. It was acquired by the Crown in 1798, and was used by the War Office and
Colonial Office The Colonial Office was a government department of the Kingdom of Great Britain and later of the United Kingdom, first created to deal with the colonial affairs of British North America but needed also to oversee the increasing number of colonies ...
in the 19th century. Some parts were demolished in the 1860s, and by 1876 it had been removed completely. * 15–20 Downing Street, long since demolished, were at one time houses leading up to Horse Guards Road. 15-16 formerly housed the
Foreign Office Foreign may refer to: Government * Foreign policy, how a country interacts with other countries * Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in many countries ** Foreign Office, a department of the UK government ** Foreign office and foreign minister * United St ...
, which also occupied two houses on the south side of the street. 18 was occupied by the West India Department of the Colonial Office and 20 was occupied by the Tithe Commission. The houses at the end of the street were arranged around Downing Square. There used to be a public house, the Rose and Crown, in Downing Street. In 1830 the tenant was a Mr Dixon. Throughout the history of these houses, ministers have lived by agreement in whatever rooms they thought necessary. On some occasions Number 11 has been occupied not by the Chancellor of the Exchequer but by the individual considered to be the nominal deputy Prime Minister (whether or not they actually took the title); this was particularly common in coalition governments. Sometimes a minister only uses the Downing Street flat for formal occasions and lives elsewhere. During his last period in office, in 1881, William Ewart Gladstone claimed residence in numbers 10, 11 and 12 for himself and his family. He was both Chancellor of the Exchequer and Prime Minister at the time. After the 1997 United Kingdom general election, 1997 general election, in which Labour Party (UK), Labour took power, a swap was carried out by the new incumbents of the two titles; Tony Blair being a married man with three children living at home, while his counterpart Gordon Brown was unmarried at the time of taking up his post. Although Number 10 was the Prime Minister's official residence and contained the prime ministerial offices, Blair and his family actually moved into the more spacious Number 11, while Brown lived in the more meagre apartments of Number 10. This was the second time this had occurred; Stafford Northcote lived in Number 10 at one point, while Benjamin Disraeli occupied Number 11. That was for precisely the same reason—at the time, Number 10 was the more spacious apartment and Sir Stafford had a larger family. Blair and Brown's arrangement continued between Brown (at Number 11) and Alistair Darling (at Number 10), and continued in the Cameron–Clegg coalition, Cameron ministry (with David Cameron at Number 11 and George Osborne at Number 10) and under the premiership of Theresa May, with Theresa May at Number 11 and Philip Hammond at Number 10. Boris Johnson similarly resides at Number 11.


Security gates

Barriers were erected at the St James's Park end of the street for the unveiling of the The Cenotaph, Whitehall, Cenotaph on 11 November 1920. They were a public safety measure intended to prevent the crowds in Whitehall becoming too dense.New York Times, ''Build wall around Premier's house'', 27 November 1920. When the Irish War of Independence, movement for Irish independence became increasingly violent, it was decided to retain the barriers, which were raised and strengthened. On 26 November 1920 construction commenced on a wooden barricade, high at the end of the street. They were described as being of a "substantial character" mounted on proper foundations and incorporated vehicle gates. The barriers were taken down in 1922 when the Irish Free State was created. Vehicle access was curtailed in 1973 when metal barriers were placed across the entrance to the street. In 1974, the Metropolitan Police proposed erecting a semi-permanent barrier between the sidewalk, pavement and carriageway on the Foreign Office side to keep pedestrians off the main part of the street. The proposal came with assurances that tourists would still be permitted to take photographs at the door of Number 10. The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, rejected the proposal, feeling that it would appear to be an unacceptable restriction of the freedom of the public. Wilson's private secretary wrote "I much regret this further erosion of the Englishman's right to wander at will in Downing Street." In 1982 access was further restricted by railings and a demountable gate. They were replaced by black steel gates in 1989. The increase in security was due to an increase in violence, particularly by the Provisional Irish Republican Army, IRA during The Troubles. The Thatcher ministry was particularly moved to increase security after the 1979 assassination of Lord Mountbatten. Access through these gates led to a political scandal known as Plebgate (or List of "-gate" scandals, Gategate), which started in September 2012. The trigger was an altercation between Conservative Party (UK), Conservative
Chief Whip The Chief Whip is a political office whose task is to administer the whipping system that tries to ensure that members of the party attend and vote as the party leadership desires. United Kingdom In British politics, the Chief Whip of the gove ...
Andrew Mitchell, and the police officers on duty at these gates. Mitchell had to resign as the Government Chief Whip because of the incident.


Public right of way

The public right of way along Downing Street has not been extinguished nor subject to a gating order and the road retains the status of a public highway maintained by Westminster City Council. Public access was curtailed by relying on common law powers to prevent breach of the peace (although its legality has been questioned by a correspondent for ''New Statesman'' magazine). In 2005, Westminster City Council used anti-terrorism powers contained in the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 to formalise the restrictions by means of a traffic management order. This by implication results in Downing Street being inaccessible to the general public as admittance is only granted by the Police to scheduled visitors, Parliamentary pass holders and members of the accredited press. Although the Downing Street government buildings and grounds are a designated site under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 for criminal trespass, the street was not included in the boundaries of the designated area.


Security

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. Security was tightened after 10 Downing Street was Downing Street mortar attack, mortar bombed by the IRA in 1991.


See also

* Downing Street Christmas Tree * List of eponymous roads in London


References


External links

*
Downing Street
at the ''Survey of London'' online (see items 14–18 in the table of contents). {{Coord, 51, 30, 11.6, N, 0, 07, 39.0, W, region:GB_type:landmark, display=title Downing Street, 1680s establishments in England