10 Downing Street

London, United Kingdom | C.1684

Photo Credit: @ukforeignoffice

10 Downing Street, referred to locally as “Number 10,” is the headquarters of the Government of the United Kingdom and the official residence of the Prime Minister. For that reason, this 300-year-old building is simply known as “The Prime Minister’s office.”

Number 10 was originally split into three properties: a mansion overlooking St. James’s Park called “the House at the Back,” a town house behind it, and a cottage. The town house, from which the modern building gets its name, was one of several built by Sir George Downing, a notorious spy for Oliver Cromwell and later Charles II who purchased the land in 1654.

10 Downing Street became the office of the Prime Minister thanks to Sir Robert Walpole. King George II offered Number 10 to him in 1732 who accepted on the condition that the gift was to the office of First Lord of the Treasury rather than to him personally.

The building houses a staggering 100+ rooms; a private residence occupies the third floor while the other floors contain offices and conference rooms where the Prime Minister works. Despite its size and convenient location near to Parliament, few early Prime Ministers lived there.

Costly to maintain and neglected, Number 10 was close to being demolished several times. But the property survived and became linked with many statesmen and events in British history. In 1985 Margaret Thatcher said it had become “one of the most precious jewels in the national heritage.”

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