Who Lives at 10 Downing Street?

Police officer on duty outside 10 Downing Street. Editorial credit: dominika zarzycka / Shutterstock.com

10 Downing Street is the official office and residence of the prime minister of the United Kingdom. It is colloquially known as Number 10 in the United Kingdom and was established as the residence of the First Lord of the Treasury; a post that is currently held by the prime minister. 10 Downing Street is also the headquarters of the government of the UK.

Where is 10 Downing Street?

10 Downing Street is located in Downing Street, City of Westminster, London. Number 10 represents an apartment building that is over 300 years old and has 100 rooms. The building hosts offices, conference, dining, and sitting rooms. The building also hosts foreign dignitaries, national leaders, and government ministers. An interior courtyard and a half-acre garden are located at the rear of the building. 10 Downing Street is within walking distance of the Buckingham Palace and the Palace of Westminster.

History of 10 Downing Street

The first building to be constructed at the site of 10 Downing Street was a brewery, but by the beginning of the 16th century, the brewery was no longer in use. Elizabeth Hampden acquired the building renamed it Hampden House. George Downing, for whom the street is named, leased the house and redesigned it to what it is today. Several people occupied the building from 1688 to the 1730s. In 1721, Sir Robert Walpole became the First Lord of the Treasury and subsequently the first Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In 1935, King George II presented the building to the prime minister, but Walpole rejected it as a personal present and asked the king to declare it the official residence of the prime minister. On September 22, 1735, 10 Downing Street became the official residence of the prime minister of the United Kingdom.

At the start of the 19th century, the building had been relegated to the prime minister's office, as the office holders preferred living in their more comfortable houses. When Benjamin Disraeli assumed office in 1868, he described the building as “dingy and decaying” because it had not been occupied for over 30 years. In the early 20th century, 10 Downing Street was renovated and redesigned into a grand residence fitted with modern facilities. In 1884, the building was fitted with electric lighting and telephone lines. All prime ministers from 1902 have resided in the building.

10 Downing Street Today

Today, 10 Downing Street is among the most recognizable and photographed doors in the world. Once in a while, the prime minister holds press conferences outside the building. Public access to the building is limited for security purposes. The famous black door wasn't always black, in the early 20th century it was painted green. The number “10” is written at the top half of the door. The brass letterbox and the lion's head door knocker date back to the 1770s.


More in World Facts