The Address of Power: Number 10

Il numero 10 di Downing Street di Londra è uno degli indirizzi più famosi al mondo e la caratteristica porta di color nero è un simbolo di potere che è diventato lo sfondo perfetto per centinaia di foto storiche.

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Sarah Davison

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Home to British Prime Ministers since 1735, 10 Downing Street rivals America’s White House as the most famous political building in the world. The rooms behind that famous black door have seen some of the most important decisions affecting Britain in the last three hundred years. They have also been home to some of the UK’s most famous political figures, including Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. Britain’s first female Prime Minister called the building “one of the most precious jewels in the nation’s heritage.”

DOWNING STREET Winston Churchill

This jewel dates back to the 1680s. George Downing, a diplomat and crooked property developer, decided to build some houses in a new street near Parliament, in Downing Street. In 1735, King George II presented Number 10, and two more houses, to Prime Minister Sir Robert Walpole, who converted them into one large building. Downing Street soon became the nerve centre of British politics and diplomacy.

Famous Black Door

A visitor standing in Downing Street will see the famous black door and black brick front. Sixty years ago, the Government decided to clean the building. They discovered that the original colour of the bricks was … yellow! Two hundred years of pollution was to blame. And that black door? Well, the original colour was … green! The Government painted everything black again. And the famous letterbox? Just decoration. Oh, and it is impossible to open the door from the street. There is a doorbell with the word ‘Push’.


A Hundred Rooms

Once inside the door, you can visit ‘approximately’ a hundred rooms! Over the years, the Prime Minister’s official residence has extended into adjacent buildings, with dozens of rooms connected by a labyrinth of corridors. The rooms include the Cabinet Room (the heart of government), offices, conference rooms, reception rooms, sitting rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, an interior courtyard and terrace — and a private residence.  

Stairs for the Stars

When you enter Number 10, the first thing you see is the magnificent 18th-century staircase. On the walls are pictures of every Prime Minister — with two of Churchill. The Cabinet Room, with its large floor-to-ceiling windows, dominates the ground floor and there are three state drawing rooms. In one of them, John Logie Baird demonstrated his new invention, the television, in 1926. Other interesting parts of Number 10 include the kitchen, which is two storeys high and has a four-metre by one-metre chopping block, and a rose garden at the back

the Chief Mouser


The title of Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office has only officially existed since 2011. The incumbent, Larry, is a rescued stray cat who was employed after rats were reported crossing the steps of 10 Downing Street.

There has been a resident cat in the English government since the 1500s. In 1929, Peter was the first to really distinguish himself in the position, holding it throughout the Second World War. His successor, Peter III, became a celebrity in the 1950s, appearing regularly in the press. Peta was the first female cat in the role. Chosen from a diplomatic home rather than adopted, and given a salary increase, Peta was nevertheless considered lazy, noisy and was not toilet-trained. Wilberforce, known as the best mouser in Britain, replaced her in 1973.

Humphrey, who served under Margaret Thatcher, did not get along with Cherie Blair, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s wife. Whether an allergy or poor hygiene was to blame, there was no cat in Downing Street for a decade. In 2007, Sybil, named after Sybil Fawlty from Fawlty Towers, moved in — but not for long. Amidst questions over her loyalty to the English government, she returned to her native Scotland, leaving the post vacant until Larry was employed.

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