10 Secrets Of 10 Downing Street

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 22 months ago

Last Updated 07 July 2022

10 Secrets Of 10 Downing Street
Photo: Darrell Godliman

1. In the hot seat

We can think of various politicians feeling rather familiar with this expression right now, and it really does originate from Downing Street. A large black chair sits in the entrance hall of Number 10, a seat previously used by the nightwatchman. The chair has a drawer underneath, which would have been filled with hot coal to keep him warm.

2. No-one's got the keys

Look closely at the door — there's no keyhole. The door can only be opened from the inside. But the Prime Minister needn't worry — there's always someone on duty to open it.

3. Number 10 was originally three separate houses

Now combined, the property contains over 100 rooms. The private residence, in which the Prime Minister's family lives, is on the third floor

Photo: Bryan Jones

4. The iconic features

The lamp above the door, the lion door knocker and the black and white floor in the entrance hall are all instantly recognisable, and were all added during Lord Frederick North's time in residence between 1770 and 1782.

5. War damage

Downing Street wasn't immune to the effects of the Blitz. On 14 October 1940, a bomb falling nearby caused damage to the kitchen and state rooms at Number 10, while Churchill was dining nearby.

Elsewhere, a splinter from the 1991 IRA mortar attack is still embedded in the plasterwork upstairs.

Police guarding the entrance to Downing Street. Photo: Stewart Marsden

6. London calling

Under Margaret Thatcher's watch, the first direct hotline between Number 10 and the White House in Washington was installed in 1982.

7. The Grand Staircase

The walls of the Grand Staircase are lined with portraits of every British Prime Minister in chronological order. Allow Hugh Grant to demonstrate:

In reality, the walls are a much brighter yellow than depicted in Love Actually.

8. The doors

The Cabinet Room is separated from the rest of the house by soundproof doors. Also, the famous black front door is actually made from reinforced steel, rather than wood as people tend to assume.

9. Plaster bees

A friend of Londonist who works in Downing Street tells us:

In one of the drawing rooms, in the window frames, hidden in the stucco, are six plaster bees. Tony Blair commissioned them when he was PM, ‘so there would always be six Bs in Downing Street'.

It was Thatcher’s idea. She had a little model roof thatcher built into one of the doorframes.

10. The wonky zero

This one from Mark Mason, author of Walk The Lines: