Downing Street

Category: Government

Downing Street is the street in Westminster, London, which has been the official residence for 200 years of two of the most senior British Cabinet Ministers, the First Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Prime Minister, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Downing Street is located in Whitehall in central London, a few minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament and on the edge of Horse Guards Parade and St. James’s Park.

The most famous address in Downing Street is 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury – and thus, in modern times, the residence of the Prime Minister, since the two roles have been filled by the same person.

As a result of this, “Downing Street” or “Number 10” is often used as a metonym for the Prime Ministers or their office, whilst “Number 11” is likewise a term for the Chancellors of the Exchequer or their office.

The street was built by and named after Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet (1632–1689). Downing was a soldier and diplomat who served under Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II. In the service of the King he was rewarded with the plot of land adjoining St. James’s Park upon which Downing Street now stands.

The Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chief Whip all officially live in houses on one side of the street. According to the Downing Street official website, the last private resident in the street was a Mr Chicken, about whom very little is known except that he left Downing Street some time in the 1730s. The houses on the other side were all replaced by the massive Foreign Office in the nineteenth century.

In the 1950s and 1960s, plans were considered to demolish both the Foreign Office and the rest of Downing Street and build “something more modern”. However the plans were never implemented and have long since been abandoned.


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