Thames House

Thames House is an office development in Millbank, London on the bank of the River Thames adjacent to Lambeth Bridge. It has served as the headquarters of the British Security Service , commonly known as MI5, since December 1994.

The building was constructed in 1929-30 on riverside land cleared after the disastrous 1928 Thames flood severely damaged run-down residential properties.

It was built to designs by Sir Frank Baines, of the Government’s Office of Works.

It is a uniform but not identical design to Nobel House which is opposite it on the north side of Horseferry Road; while Nobel House was exclusively for Imperial Chemical Industries, Thames House had originally various uses. Baines’ design owes much to the ‘Imperial Neoclassical’ tradition of Sir Edwin Lutyens and deliberately ties in with the Imperial design of Lambeth Bridge when it was redesigned from 1929. High up on the frontage are statues by C.S. Jagger.

The disperse and dilapidated state of its previous buildings in Curzon Street House (since demolished) and 140 Gower Street (also demolished) led MI5 to seek a new home in the late 1980s. The Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) were engaged in a simultaneous hunt for new headquarters and consideration was given to co-location of the two. However this proposal was abandoned, due to the lack of buildings of adequate size (existing or proposed) and the security considerations of providing a single target for attacks. At the same time, Thames House, which was largely used as government offices, became vacant and it was decided to convert and refit it for MI5’s use. The GMW Partnership undertook the necessary reconstruction work from 1990, which included part-infilling of the building’s distinctive archway.

Thames House now stands almost directly across the River Thames from the headquarters of its sister organisation MI6 at 85 Vauxhall Cross. The building is shared with the Northern Ireland Office.

The BBC television series Spooks uses the exterior and lobby of the Freemasons’ Hall in Great Queen Street as a location for the show’s portrayal of Thames House.

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