10 Downing Street Tour

September 5th, 2021 / Downing Street / No Comments »

Yes, that’s right Topdogdays went to 10 Downing Street a few years back!

OK, so I was not invited to see the Prime Minister to discuss tourism or other such world events, (mind, I’m always agreeable if the invitation comes my way), but rather was successful in a recent ballot run by Open House London to tour 10 Downing Street.  I have to say it was better than winning the lottery.  Find out how you too could enjoy a FREE tour of Downing Street house & gardens within our guide below.

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10 Downing Street tour with Open House London

Topdogdays at 10 Downing Street!

10 Downing Street Tour; Open House London

Billed as the ‘capital’s largest annual festival of architecture and design’ Open House London gives the public free access to many of London’s historic & iconic buildings around the city.  Whilst the vast majority of the buildings open on a first-come-first-served basis, a few of the most popular attractions require participants to apply via a ballot.  Open House London runs every year during mid September offering entry to 800+ historic houses, government buildings, museums & private homes including 10 Downing Street.

A couple of years ago we applied for tickets for the 10 Downing Street tour and won 2 tickets for the morning tour.  Excited? I couldn’t quite believe my luck.  Joining us on our journey of 10 Downing Street were 3 enthusiastic tour guides, each of whom focused upon different aspects of the building.

Find out how we got on below or find out more details on how you can apply over at 10 Downing Street Ballot – Open House London.

open house london pictures outside 10 downing street tour

10 Downing Street Tour

10 Downing Street; Tour Guides

Our first guide was drawn from the Government Art Collection that provided the art work found within 10 Downing Street, (and many other UK government buildings around the world). Second up was a conservation expert who focused on the history, design & preservation of the building.  Our third guide came from 10 Downing Street itself who provided anecdotal observations into the workings of the people within the building. Their interest in their subject matched our own to the extent that they obligingly extended the hour long tour to over 2 and half hours!  You could not have hoped for better guides.

As we walked through the front door of Number 10 Downing Street, the proverbial hairs on the back of your neck began to move.  Immediately all media devices were placed within an old fashioned wooden pigeon hole storage area located close to the front door.  As even Ministers & advisers are instructed to leave their phones here, this didn’t seem the moment to suggest Topdogdays readers might be interested in a couple of interior shots. Wasn’t going to happen.

As we moved through the rooms, our guides brought to life the stories behind the rooms and the political characters that have shaped our history through the years.  We slowly made our way through to the Cabinet Room, pausing outside in The Garden before taking the Grand Staircase up to the State Rooms.  To walk freely through rooms, notably seen as the backdrop for various Prime Ministers during official engagements/governmental work, was a unique experience and a dream come true for my accompanying 12 year old.

Mind, I just had to take them up on the chance to use the Downing Street loo – well, it’s all part of the Topdogdays experience!

larry the cat autograph 10 downing street

10 Downing Street Tour; Autograph from Larry the Cat

10 Downing Street Tour; Open House London

Open House London is an annual event that offers free entry to over 800 historic houses, government buildings, museums and private buildings, many of which are not normally open to the public.  The vast majority of these settings open on a first-come-first-served basis, whilst a small number require participants to apply in advance via a ballot.

More information available at Open House London.

10 Facts About 10 Downing Street That Were News To Me

1. Whilst the well known black brickwork seen to the front of the building was original caused by soot pollution, the bricks are now simply re-painted black to match the original look of the building.

2. The Prime Minister’s chair within the cabinet room is thought to be located in the middle of the table, (rather than head of the table), as it is closest to the fireplace. An important factor before central heating was invented.

3. Within the garden of 10 Downing Street, you’ll currently find a Barbara Hepworth statue, the iconic rose garden and a very ordinary looking swing-set.

4. Whilst portraits of every Prime Minister line the walls of the Grand Staircase, set within chronological order, there is only room for around 50 more pictures.

5. Damage to the outside of the building remains, (deliberately), visible following a mortar attack on 10 Downing Street in 1991.

6. Around 200 people work within 10 Downing Street – it is definitely bigger than you think!

7. Emergency evacuation plans for 10 Downing Street include the 2 Turner paintings located within the White Drawing Room, (currently valued at £15 million & £17 million).

8. The Study was revamped during Tony Blair’s time in office where he left 6 small bumble bees, one for each of the family, at the top of the white bookcases.  Apparently the bee is a firm favourite with Cherie.

9. Unfortunately 10 Downing Street lies above boggy ground that causes frequent sighs from those commissioned to look after the building.

10. Larry the cat is alive and well who even provides signed autographs on request.

10 Downing Street tour

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