Whitehall and Downing Street, London
The Houses of Parliament* may be the most obvious landmark of British politics, but the real corridors of power are trudged by the grey mandarins of Whitehall. This is where the Treasury, Foreign Office, and the Cabinet Office, amongst others, make some of the country’s most important political decisions.
Sandwiched between these large buildings of Portland stone is Downing St where the Prime Minister resides at No.10 and the Chancellor next door at No.11. For security reasons there isn’t much to see because everything is well guarded by gates, barriers and armed police.
The Ministry of Defence has its offices here and some of the other buildings used to belong to The Admiralty and War Office. Even the Metropolitan Police had their original headquarters at the famous ‘Scotland Yard’.
To put things into context ‘Whitehall’ can mean a couple of different things - the road called Whitehall, and the area surrounding it.
The road, for all intents and purposes, runs from Parliament Square to Charing Cross, although it’s not strictly true because from The Cenotaph to Parliament Square it’s known as Parliament St. It gets its name from the Palace of Whitehall which covered this area until it was destroyed by fire in 1698, the only surviving building being The Banqueting House*. Apart from the government offices, things to look out for are The Cenotaph, Horse Guards, and any number of statues, which are mostly of famous British military figures.
As regards the area surrounding this road, the government offices cover an area roughly bordered by Horse Guards Rd and The Embankment from west to east and from the bottom of Parliament St to the top of Whitehall at Charing Cross. When media reporters talk about Whitehall they’re usually referring to the area rather than the road.
The walk from Parliament Square up to Charing Cross is only about half a mile but it can take a fair bit of time if you stop at places like The Churchill War Rooms*, the Banqueting House* and Horse Guards Parade (tip to come later). Keep a bit of energy in reserve though because when you get to Charing Cross you’ve come to Trafalgar Square and the rest of the ‘West End’ where shopping and entertainment takes over.
Houses of Parliament
Churchill War Rooms
Whitehall Road is one of the Popular Roads in London as this Road has many of the london attractions such as various Memorials and Government Offices and Ministries within the area. The Road forms the first part of the A3212 road from Trafalgar Square to Chelsea and is one of the entrances to Downing Street, where the famous Home of the British Prime Minister is located. Among the famous Areas within the road are the Cenotaph, the Women of World War 2 memorial, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge Memorial, Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig Memorial, Bernard Montgomery Memorial, Old War Office, Ministry of Defence, Old Horse Guards, Foreign Office, Richmond House and a Lot More.
unless you are living under a rock for 100 years, You would know that the prestigious 10 Downing Street is the official home of the British Prime Minister for more than 200 years. It started in 1735 and since then, every elected Prime Minister has been living there as the Residence is sprawling and it includes dozens of Rooms, a private garden, a mini museum, a conference hall. All of which you could not able to enter unless you are a member of Parliament or a Head of State of A Country as no one is allowed to enter inside. The front Door of the House is the famous photographed area and is opened to the public but with so much security as they have placed Barrier Gates to both ends of Downing Street as a deterrence for terrorist attacks of which that last one happened in 1990.
Opens: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm everyday for the public.
Along the various Memorials Lining Whitehall Road is the Women of World War 2 Memorial, which lies north of the famous Cenotaph of which it was a fairly new Addition of which it was only inagurated in July of 2005 and was built by famous Sculptor John Mills and was unveiled 60 years after world war 2 as they noted that other allied countries had Memorials to Women who fought in World War 2 while Britain had not. At the unveiling, they had famous World War 2 veterans present likethe Famous British Special Service Oerative Nancy Wake.
The Memorial is open 24/7
If you have ever wondered where TV reporters stand with The Houses of Parliament in the background , it is here on this large stretch of grass at Abingdon Street Gardens. It is sometimes called College Green but the sign here does say Abingdon St Gardens.
At all times of the day you can see famous and not so famous politicians been interviewed here.
The gardens are actually the roof of an underground car park built in 1963.
Henry Moore's bronze sculpture Knife Edge Two Piece 1962–65 can be seen on my photo and are the sole work of art here.
After visiting Big Ben and Westminster Abbey we walked back to Parliament square where you can see the statue of Winston Churchil (1874-1965) one of the famous wartime leaders that was the prime minister of UK from 1940 to 1945. Some years before I saw some demonstrations there but in may 2014 there were just some solders taking pictures...
Then we started to walk along Whitehall avenue along the left pavement (it’s only 750m from parliament sq to Trafalgar square with many nice buildings along the way but also monuments and the horse guards).
So, after 100meters we saw the beautiful gate with 3 arches (pic1) that leads into King Charles street and took some pictures of the nicely decorated top. We walked 150m more and noticed some iron bars and policemen blocking a small street and tourists taking pictures of them! (pic 2) It’s Downing Street that houses the home of the prime minister at number 10. Traditionally, this is the place that the prime minister lives and next to him the minister of economy. The huge bars wont allow you to get near the building, so take a pic of the corner sign.
Anyway, it was time to move on, along the avenue you will notice some monuments in the middle of the avenue, first we saw the Cenotaph(pic 3), it’s the monument for the unknown soldier, something very typical all over Europe with most of them erected after WWI. Just a few meters away is another monument(pic 4), this one is about the women during WWII. A few meters after we saw another monument showing field marshal Earl Haig (pic 5) that fought during WWI riding a horse .
Of course you can also take picture of the horse guards and end up at Trafalgar square to see the Nelson’s monument or/and visit the National Gallery.
Whitehall is one of the unmissable thoroughfares of Westminster. A walk down this busy road will provide you with many sights to see including:
Main photo: The Cenotaph. This is the national war memorial where the Queen lays a wreath of poppies on Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday of November. It stands as a reminder to all Britons of the sacrifices of their countrymen and women in the two World Wars.
Photo 2: The Cenotaph by night.
Photo 3: Entrance to Downing St. This is the entrance to Downing St where both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of The Exchequer live at numbers 10 and 11 respectively. The street is gated and guarded by police. Access is by invitation only and there is no access granted to the general public.
Photo 4: Monument to the Women of World War Two. This monument to the efforts of British women in wartime was dedicated in July 2005 by Baroness Betty Boothroyd, the former Speaker of the House of Commons. Designed by John W. Mills, the monument was unveiled by the Queen just two days after the tragic 7/7 bombings in London.
When I prepared my summer 2008 trip to London and browsed through many of the VT pages, I was deligthed to see that Mariajoy wrote about bath & wash houses in Hampstead. So I have put it on my wishlist, but finally didn’t go to Hampstead (maybe next time), as I found a beautiful building of a former public bath & wash house in Great Smith Street, just behind Dean’s Yard. It is hard to imagine for us inhabitants of the “industrialised” part of the world (what a horrible word….) that only 100 years ago many inhabitants in the commencing industrialised parts of our planet didn’t have the water supply in their homes as we have today. So it was most natural to open public baths with facilities to wash laundry as well. In the Museum of London should be a detailed exhibition of these days and the idea of bath houses, however, this part is closed for renovation until 2010. So the only options to see these old bath houses are to walk around in London and look out for them.
The one in Great Smith Street was designed by J.F. Smith at the end of 19th century and is located next to the former Westminster Public Library. Sadly it is no longer in use but houses a real estate agency (I think).
Coordinates on GoogleEarth:
There are two noteworthy war monuments in the middle of the street of Whitehall. One of them is the Cenotaph, which is the official war memorial in the U.K. It is dedicated to the dead of the British Empire in WW I and WW II and those in the British Military.
The Cenotaph was designed by Edward Lutyen, unveiled in 1920, and is a Grade I listed building. The inscripton on the memorial is "The Glorious Dead". A year before, in 1919, a wooden and plaster Cenotaph was erected in the same shape as the current Cenotaph, which replaced it a year later. It was originally built for the first anniversary of the Armistice of WW I.
On Remembrance Day the Cenotaph is the focus of the Remembrance service.
The other war memorial in the middle of Whitehall, north of the Cenotaph, is the Monument to the Women of World War Il. It is much newer than the Cenotaph, and was unveiled in 2005 by the Queen on the 60th anniversary of the end of WW II. The monument was made by the sculptor John W. Mills and has 17 sets of different clothing on it, all around the monument, which represent the different jobs women worked during WW II to replace the men who had to go to war.
The memorial is dedicated to the work of more than 7.000.000 women who served their country during WW II. The memorial is also dedicated to the politician Baroness Betty Boothroyd, who has been the only female Speaker of the House of Commons
Halfway down Whitehall on the west side of the road you will always see a crowd gathered. This is the location of the Horse Guards building, and outside two troopers from the Household Cavalry are on guard every day, from 10.00 AM to 4.00 PM. Their colourful costumes and impassive stare attract attention, and legions of tourist photographers. Once an hour the crowd swells as the troopers are relived and a small ceremony marks the handover of duties to a new pair.
The building behind is often overlooked by those watching this ceremony, but from the other side, by St James’s Park, it is very impressive (see photo two). There it is fronted by the wide expanse of Horse Guards Parade, where the Trooping the Colour ceremony is held. This wide expanse of gravel on the eastern edge of St James’s Park has been used as a parade ground since the 17th century, although its original use was for jousting tournaments held for the pleasure of Henry V111 at what was his main London residence, Whitehall Palace. The palace itself was destroyed by fire at the end of the 17th century, but this tiltyard, and the Banqueting House nearby on Whitehall, remain.
On the northern side of the parade ground is the Old Admiralty, while on the southern side you can see the back of the buildings in Downing Street, including no 10, the home of the British Prime Minister. Access to the ground is open apart from during official ceremonies, and indeed it makes a good short cut between Whitehall and the park.
Horse Guards was built between 1751 and 1753, and served as the headquarters of the British Army's Commander-in-Chief until 1904, when it became the headquarters of the Household Cavalry. The unit of the Household Cavalry which you see on guard here is known as the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment. The troops and horses are based at Hyde Park Barracks, a mile or so away, and it isn’t unusual to see them on the streets around here, coming or going from their duties. Indeed, I once saw a rather exciting incident – one of the horses was being led by a trooper riding a second horse, and the horse being led managed to escape from the man’s grasp and bolt down the road. Luckily it was quiet at the time, and a policeman on motorbike who was with the troop of cavalry was able to catch up with the horse and grab its rein.
Incidentally, there are two regiments within the Household Cavalry, and they wear different uniforms, so you can easily tell which is on duty when you visit. The Life Guards wear red tunics with a black collar and a white plume on their helmets. The Blues and Royals, as the name suggests, wear blue tunics with a red collar and a red plume. So you can see that the troopers in my photo are from the Blues and Royals.
In 2012 Horse Guards Parade took on a new role, and was transformed into a temporary beach – or at least, into the site for the Olympic Beach Volleyball tournament. Chris and I had tickets for the event and were there to see what was surely one of the most unusual and exciting of any Olympic venue.
The Ministry of Defence is, by no means, a tourist attraction. Its headquarters, located in Whitehall and next to the Horse Guards Parade, were erected in the neo-Classical style during the period immediately before and after the Second World War. The main building is part of the wider government complex that includes the Air Ministry and the Board of Trade, as well as the Admiralty Building. Together with these structures, the Ministry of Defence is sure to create an imposing image for the visitor, one that is ideal for a few snapshots.
Trooping the colours during 60 years is a record achieved by Queen Elisabeth II.
This year 2012 the Coldstream Guards were at honour (red plume on the bearskin cap).
It is the oldest regiment in the U.K. Regular Army in continuous active service, originating in Coldstream, Scotland in 1650. In Belgium there is a monument remembering the Coldstream Guards who fought against Napoleon at the farm of Hougoumont near Waterloo (18/06/1815).
Trooping the Colour is a yearly military ceremony carried out by fully trained and operational troops from the Household Division.
This ceremony dates back to the early eighteenth century, when the flags (colours) of the regiment were 'trooped' (carried) down the ranks so that they could be seen and recognised by each soldier. This parade also marked the Sovereign's official birthday.
The parade takes place on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall. (The daily change of foot guards is at Buckingham Palace).
The troops involved come from the Household Division made up of five Regiments Foot Guards and two Regiments of the Household Cavalry
Only one colour (flag) can be trooped each year and it is done on rotation between the 5 Regiments of Foot Guards: Grenadier, Coldstream, Scots, Irish and Welsh.
If you want to see a "trooping the colour" ceremony in London and have no link with the "Royals" you will be obliged to follow the somewhat complex formalities to obtain - most often not obtain - an invitation.
Applications to attend the Parade in the seated stands should be sent in January and February 2013 only to:
The Brigade Major, Headquarters Household Division, Horse Guards.
Whitehall, London SW1A 2AX.
Or telephone +44 (0)20 7414 2479 for further information.
The tickets, at £25.00 per seat, are ALLOCATED BY BALLOT in March.
Individuals without tickets can still see the processions from the Mall. The parade is also broadcast live on the BBC in the UK and retransmitted by some other countries TV's.
In 2006 my good friends (ref. my pages on Belgium, Ieper, Welsh Guards at Last Post) of the Welsh Guards trooped the colour. Photos by courtesy of Welsh Guards Online (see also my travelogue).
2nd. Battalion Coldstream Guards was on the 2007 Parade.
The Trooping the Colour 2008 was perfect.
Adequate weather, the flag, the Dragon of the Welsh Guards, was the colour trooped on this June 14th, 2008. As you might know the Welsh Guards are my favourite regiment (re. the liberation of Brussels on Sept 4, 1944 - my page on the history of Belgium). You will recognize them at their badge on the collar: a silver leek.
The best moments were the quick march of the Foot Guards and the sitting trot of the Cavalry.
I remarked, with pleasure, that the commander of the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery was a woman; not easy for her to bark orders over that huge parade ground.
On Saturday 13th June 2009 the Colour has been trooped by 1st Battalion Irish Guards.
Perfect parade as usual. Remarkable voice of the commanding officer. I wonder how many decibels he developed when shouting his orders. In 2010 the 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards were parading their flag colour. In 2011 the Colour was Trooped by 1st Battalion Scots Guards.
The Cenotaph on Whitehall is an often overlooked place, except on Remembrance Sunday in November, when the entire area is brought to a halt by crowds paying their respects to Britain's fallen heroes.
The term 'Çenotaph' means 'empty tomb' and was established in 1920 to honour the memory of the fallen in The Great War - World War I - which was billed at the time as 'The War to End All Wars'. Unfortunately just over two decades later, this estimation was to prove sadly optimistic, and the Cenotaph now commemorates both World Wars and those who have been killed in the service of their country in subsequent conflicts.
The Cenotaph in London was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and has created a template for cenotaphs throughout the Commonwealth.
On Remembrance Sunday - the closest Sunday to Armistice Day, 11 November, on which First World War hostilities ceased - a solemn wreath laying ceremony takes place at the Cenotaph, lead by the Queen and the Prime Minister. These ceremonies have taken on added poignancy in recent years as the survivors of the World Wars become frailer and less numerous, and their ranks are supplemented by more recent veterans of the Afghan and Gulf Wars.
In the run up to Remembrance Sunday, many people - notably newsreaders and other TV personalities - wear red poppy badges in their lapels. These commemorate the poppies that sprung up on the battle fields of Flanders after the war and also symbolise the red of the blood spilled. Money from poppy sales is donated to a range of charities for veterans.
Unfortunately such respect for the fallen is not shared by all: a group of youths were convicted of defacing the Cenotaph in the London riots of December 2010 - including Charlie Gilmour (stepson of legendary Pink Floyd guitarist Dave) who was found guilty of swinging from the Union Jack - and were deservedly jailed for their troubles.
Guarded by mounted soldiers, the Horse Guards is the home of the Troopers of the Household Cavalry. Each day at 11am, (Sundays are at 10.00 - confirm before travelling) there is a Changing of the Guard ceremony. The ceremony is similar to the pomp of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, although not as grand, but is very popular amongst tourists to London.