Home of London’s most famous door
There can’t be many shiny black doors as well-known as Number 10 Downing Street. It’s certainly a celebrity door in its own right. So keep an eye out for it on your London Bus Tour. The Prime Minister and his family officially live within, and it's only a short walk to work at the Houses of Parliament nearby. Next door at Number 11 is the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It’s actually quite a small street. But all the heavily-armed policemen standing guard outside 24/7 soon give the game away as to how politically important this location is.
Whitehall’s most powerful address for over 200 years
15 houses were originally built on Downing Street in the 1680s by Sir George Downing. It used to be just a quiet terrace for ‘persons of good quality’. However, since 1735 every British prime minister has lived there, including: Pitt the Younger, Benjamin Disraeli, William Gladstone, David Lloyd George, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Secure as houses?
From both the First and Second World Wars to the Great Depression of 1929, Britain’s most important decisions have been handled and directed from Number 10. Security is understandably tight. No one can enter the building without passing through a scanner and a set of high-tech security gates – the front door can’t even be opened from the outside because it has no handle. Even so, in the first few years after Tony Blair came into power – 37 computers, 4 mobile phones, 2 cameras, a video recorder, 4 printers and a bicycle were just some of the items stolen from here.
Other interesting facts about Downing Street
- Winston Churchill wrote that Number 10 was ‘shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name they bear’
- The house numbering was different too: Number 10 was originally Number 5 and did not acquire its present number until 1779
- The last private resident was called Mr Chicken. Nobody knows anything else about him and he moved out in 1732
- Larry, Chief Mouser, is a cat from Battersea Dogs & Cats Home who lives at Number 10. He is the first cat to receive this official title.