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10 Downing Street

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10 Downing Street

Is this an icon?


10 Downing Street

If there is one address in England even more iconic than 221b Baker Street or 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam, it has to be 10 Downing Street. Residence of British prime ministers since the very first one, Robert Walpole, in 1735, it remains the office (and frequently also the home) of the premier because Walpole selflessly declined to accept the property as a personal gift when offered it by George II. On the brass letterbox in the front door is engraved the prime minister’s less widely known title, First Lord of the Treasury.

During wartime, much of government business was carried on in underground rooms beneath the Ministry of Works, but Churchill refused to abandon Downing Street altogether, continuing to use the place for working and dining. Successive prime ministers have brought their own personal touches. Clement Attlee and his wife had the attic converted as their home. Edward Heath moved his grand piano into the White Drawing Room.

Among the interior glories of the house is William Kent’s majestic three-sided staircase, on the walls of which is arranged a chronological sequence of portraits of all the prime ministers.

Photo: Courtesy of the Prime Minister's Office/Crown copyright


Your comments

Quite simply, it is the most famous address in the land. But it is not a palace, or a castle, but an old English terraced house. You can find them all over the country - my first home was a terraced home. This fact makes it even more of an icon, it personifies the people as well as the government. The black door of Number Ten is etched on the mind of people everywhere when they think of the British Prime Minister. Since then many great and historic figures, both British and foreign, have entered through that door. Behind it decisions have been made that have shaped our history - and will shape our future.


I like British people and the Bristish law, but to me 10 Downing Street is a bad image of Britain because it helped destroy Iraq and killed over one million innocent people. The politians in Downing Street are following American policy so they can get power and wealth. But they must realise that the American government is starting to lose their grip, their men and their way. I hope the British will change their policy towards the countries involved and the people who are suffering firsthand from this war. Is it not time to treat every human being with respect regardless of their religion, creed or colour?

Always seen in photographs and on television as the hub of UK government
Russell Hougham

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My favourite Icon of England has to be the Cornish Pasty.

Ian Baldry