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Saturday, September 5, 2015

10 Downing Street ~ official residence of the First Lord of Treasury !!

Number 10 Downing Street has never been busier than it is today. It is an office for the Prime Minister, a meeting place for the Cabinet, a venue for state events and a home for the Prime Minister's family.

The United Kingdom general election of 2015 was held on 7th  May 2015 to elect the 56th Parliament of the United Kingdom. Voting took place in all 650 parliamentary constituencies of the United Kingdom, each electing one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons, the dominant house of Parliament.  Despite most opinion polls predicting the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck, the Conservatives secured a clear lead over their rivals and took a working majority of 12 (in practice increased to 15 due to Sinn Féin's 4 MPs' abstention). Conservative party leader and incumbent Prime Minister David Cameron subsequently formed a majority single-party government, while their former Liberal Democrat coalition partners suffered their worst defeat since the 1970 general election.

Samantha Cameron caused a stir when she cruised into the back of Number 10 on a trendy £160 white micro scooter.  As the Prime Minister was busy organising his cabinet reshuffle inside Downing Street, media reported of Samantha Cameron following her husband's example of making a swift return to Downing Street - on her very own micro-scooter, to the surprise of  heavily armed policeman.

As we know -  7, Race Course Road (Panchavati /  7, RCR) is the official residence and principal workplace of the Prime Minister of India, where he lives and holds most of his official or political meetings.  It is spread over 12 acres, comprising five bungalows in Lutyens' Delhi, built in the 1980s, which are PM office-cum-residence zone and security establishment, including one occupied by Special Protection Group(SPG) and another being a guest house, though all are collectively called 7, Race Course Road.  Mr. Rajiv Gandhi was the first PM to stay at 7 Race Course Road in 1984.  The PMO is located in the South Block of Secretariat Building, on Raisina Hill. 

10 Downing Street - is the headquarters of the Executive Arm of the British Government and the official residence and office of the First Lord of the Treasury, a post which, for much of the 18th and 19th centuries and ever since 1905, is also held by the Prime Minister.

Situated in Downing Street in the City of Westminster, London, Number 10 is over three hundred years old and contains approximately one hundred rooms. There is a private residence on the third floor and a kitchen in the basement.  Adjacent to St. James's Park, Number 10 is near to Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the British monarch, and the Palace of Westminster, the meeting place of both houses of parliament.

Originally three houses, Number 10 was offered to Sir Robert Walpole by George II in 1732.  The arrangement was not an immediate success. Despite its size and convenient location near to Parliament, few early Prime Ministers lived there. Costly to maintain, neglected, and run-down, Number 10 was close to being razed several times. Nevertheless, the property survived and became linked with many statesmen and events in British history. In 1985 Margaret Thatcher said Number 10 had become "one of the most precious jewels in the national heritage."

The area around Downing Street was home to ancient Roman, Anglo-Saxon and Norman settlements, and was already a prestigious centre of government 1000 years ago.   However, the name is related to - Sir George Downing,  a property developer - who saw building houses on prime London land as a means to get rich quick. Downing was one of the earliest graduates of Harvard University. He came back to England during the Civil War, and by 1650 he was Cromwell's Scoutmaster General or intelligence chief.  In 1654 Downing acquired the Crown interest in the land, but he could not take possession as it was under lease to Knyvet's descendents. It was not until 1682, nearly 30 years later, that Downing finally secured the leases to the property.

He quickly set about the project, pulling down existing properties. In their place sprang up a cul-de-sac of 15 or 20 terraced houses along the northern side of Downing Street.

Designed for a quick turnover, Downing's houses were cheaply built, with poor foundations for the boggy ground. Instead of neat brick façades, they had mortar lines drawn on to look like even-spaced bricks. In the 1730s Number 10 began to be linked to the office of prime minister. When Benjamin Disraeli went to live at Number 10 in 1877, the house was in poor shape. The living quarters had not been used for 30 years. Disraeli persuaded the state to pay for renovation to the entrance halls and public rooms, though he paid himself for the private rooms to be refurbished.  When Gladstone moved into the house for the first time in 1880, he insisted on redecorating after Disraeli's occupancy, spending £1,555.5s.0d., an enormous sum for the time, on furniture.

There is some more history that the earliest building known to have stood on the site of Downing Street was the Axe brewery owned by the Abbey of Abingdon in the Middle Ages. By the early 1500s, it had fallen into disuse.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
26th Aug 2015.

Collated from various sources including Wikipedia &

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