Brandywine Valley Life
Last update
2023-03-28 05:11:15

    History of the world's most famous front door

    Downing Street has been the official residence of the UK's Prime Minister since Sir Robert Walpole moved in in 1735. It was originally No. 5 Downing Street until the houses were renumbered in 1779. Since 1997 the Prime Minister's private apartment has actually been above No. 11 Downing Street.

    The original six-panelled Georgian-style front door was fitted in 1770's. It was made from black oak and featured a centre door knob, lion head door knocker and brass letter plate which bore the inscription "First Lord of the Treasury". Following an IRA mortar attack on Downing Street in 1991, the oak door was replaced by a blast-proof steel door of the same design. The brass letterbox today is only decorative... so you can't post a friendly greeting card through the door anymore. There are actually two front doors, which are swapped over when they need repainting. The original wooden door is now stored at The Churchill Museum.

    In 1908, PM Herbert Asquith had the door painted green. Apparently the Prime Minister’s wife Margot Asquith complained that the building was "liver-coloured and squalid and lacked the landmark qualities of Marble Arch or the Albert Memorial."

    Since renovation work carried out in 1960, the "0" numeral of No. 10 has been at a 37° angle. This puzzled me for many years. I finally got an answer when I was temporarily working for the Ministry of Silly Walks in Whitehall in the 1990's. It seems the zero is actually a capital letter "O" taken from the Roman Trajan alphabet, the font used by the Ministry of Works used at the time. (This answer does not satisfy me completely, but it is the best I can find.)

    The door to 10 Downing Street can not be opened from the outside. A security officer is on duty at all times inside the door, who monitors who is approaching via cameras and grants access.

    Larry the Cat, Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office has his own private entrance to No. 10. He is the first Downing Street cat to have this privilege. However, Larry only uses the cat-flap when he is on an emergency call out. He generally uses the front door, which is more befitting for a cat of his importance. Larry has served longer in Downing Street than Margaret Thatcher, Sir Winston Churchill or Benjamin Disraeli.