Results 1-5of 5 Reviews
Rotherham, United Kingdom
August 8, 2012
From journal London Calling
Perth, Scotland, United Kingdom
March 29, 2012
From journal London icons
July 2, 2003
As to No 10 -- the No 10 website is primarily a mouthpiece for Labour party-speak, but does give some interesting history -- for example: it was originally was the site of a brewery, was originally Number 5, and -- my favourite -- the last private resident of Number 10 was a Mr. Chicken.
Apparently, the area was once a marshy and boggy 30 acre island (Thorney Island or the Island of Thorns) on the River Tyburn. There was a ford across the Tyburn, near where Westminster Bridge now stands, joining a Roman road and the Romans therefore selected Thorney Island for a settlement, which was later taken up by Saxon king Canute in early 1000s for a royal palace. His successors, Edward the Confessor (1042-66) and William the Conqueror (1066-87) established Westminster as the centre of both government and church (see entries on the Abbey and Palace above). It's not surprising then that Roman and Saxon building remains have been found within Downing Street although the earliest actual building known to have stood on the site was the Axe, brewery owned by the Abbey of Abingdon (which fell into disuse by the early 1500s).
Apparently, Thomas Knyvet, MP and Magistrate (famous for having arrested Guy Fawkes for his part in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot to blow up parliament) secured the first domestic lease -- he was a favourite of both Elizabeth I and James I and the house was leased to him rent free, with his heirs able to live on there for 60 years after his death. His wife died shortly after him and it passed to a niece, Mrs. Hampden (who was also well-connected -- ironically, Oliver Cromwell, Lord Protector and nemesis of Charles I, was her nephew). She lived in the house for 40 years, throughout nephew Oliver's Commonwealth and the early years of the restored monarchy.
10 Downing Street is both home and sometime office (the PM has a house in the country too, Chequers, for getting away from it all). The Chancellor of the Exchequer holds the purse strings from the smaller property next door at Number 11 (though, at the moment, given that Tony Blair has a family including three kids and a baby, they've swapped). You used to be able to wander through the gates and along the street, but the IRA's attempts to launch a mortar bomb at Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s put paid to all that. Prior to that, in real wartime, Chamberlain stayed put at Number 10 throughout WWI; Churchill used it as home and office until, on 14 October 1940, a bomb landed on Treasury Green causing extensive damage to the house, proving to Churchill that he needed to move to safer accommodation. He and his wife moved out of Number 10 into the annex on the floor above the Central War Rooms (remaining there until the result of the 1945 General Election was announced -- Churchill lost). Once the bombing began, the cabinet moved underground into secret war rooms in Whitehall, the "Cabinet War Rooms", which provided secret, safe accommodation for as long as necessary. This is now open as a museum, reconstructed with some unconvincing mannequins but overall quite informative and authentic to look as it did during the war years.
As the "inner sanctum" of government, the Cabinet Room itself was used by Churchill to meet with advisers. His (large) wooden seat at the far side of the room is on show, from which he presided over a coalition of ministers drawn from all sides of Parliament. The room was also used frequently by Churchill's "Defence Committee" comprising representatives from all the armed services. The Map Room was apparently left on 16 August 1945 (the day after Victory in Japan day) almost exactly as it is now -- with each book, map, chart, pin and notice as it was. On the walls are large-scale maps of the Atlantic, the waters round the UK, and Far Eastern theatres of war including maps depicting the island-hopping operations by the US Pacific forces. The Transatlantic Telephone Room, to which the then-state of the art computer-sized scrambler called "Sigsaly" was connected, created an original "hot-line" between the UK and US leaders to consult in complete security. "Sigsaly" was a top secret installation -- codename for the equipment developed by the American Bell Telephone Laboratories as a new version of the relatively easily tapped telephone scrambler. "X-Ray" (the codename for the London terminal) was installed in an annexe basement of Selfridge's department store in Oxford Street to which partially enciphered phone conversations were transmitted by hot-line for encipherment and despatch by radio waves to the President in Washington. Overall, the museum is an interesting demonstration of how things were and, if nothing else, shows how far we've come in 60 years from the now-laughable "technology" that the axis worked with in WW2.
Open Apr-Sept 9.30am-6pm (last admission 5:15). Oct-March 10am-6pm (last admission 5:15). Adults £7, concessions £5.50, children free.
From journal Ambling around London pt 2 – A wander along Whitehall
Cork, Ireland, Ireland
December 31, 2002
Number 10 Downing Street is the official residence of the Prime Minister, and it is here that much of the inner circle of the Cabinet meet to decide teh fate of those staring through the gates outside.
Number 11 Downing Street is the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, though usually it isn't quite so much in the news as it's neighbour, except on budget day when the Chancellor emerges carryng the traditional battered red attache case containing the bad news.
From journal A City Of Many Worlds
London, United Kingdom
April 8, 2002
From journal Government, Greenery and Glory - Public London