Whitehall and Downing Street, London
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.
Number 10. The official residence of the British Prime Minister seems quite humble in comparison to the White House, the Élysée Palace or the Kremlin. Plain white numbers, a letterbox and a brass knocker on a black door opening straight out onto the street. The small looking terraced house is flanked by numbers 9 and 11, home to the Chief Whip's office and the Chancellor of the Exchequer respectively. It could be any house in London - there's nothing really outstanding about it.
Unfortunately it's this urbanity that makes it now almost impossible to see the house. Unlike many of its contemporaries, Number 10 is no palace with large fenced in grounds to patrol. The grounds of Number 10 are Downing Street itself. So when the IRA came knocking the street was locked down with iron gates and armed police and has remained this way ever since. All you can see know is a glimpse of the black bricks, but maybe, just maybe, on a very lucky day you might see the Prime Minister himself.
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.
I know that Old Bond Street and Savile Row have different reputations and different histories, but their proximity to one another, and the likelihood that visitors will be wandering from one to the other has led me to combine them into one tip. Bond Street was initially built up in the 19th century as a street for art galleries and auction houses. Sotheby’s, world-famous for its auctions of art works by European and American masters, is still located on the Street. Today, the street is lined with luxury retailers, particularly high-end clothiers and jewelers. In fact, the northern end of Old Bond Street supposedly has the highest concentration of jewelers in the world (I’m sure Dubai will find a way to outdo this). Conversely, Savile Row (located just to the east of Old Bond Street), has retained its reputation as the epicenter of high-end tailoring. While the street was first developed in the 18th century, it was not until the mid-19th century that it became established as the headquarters of some of London’s most established and well-respected tailors. Here you will still find the offices of some of the most exclusive providers of tailoring services both for men’s suits and for military and naval uniforms. You will also find some of the revolutionaries on the front of men’s modern fashions. Savile Row isn’t just about men’s suits, though: you will also see on the street the location of the Beatles’ recording business, Apple.
Burlington Arcade, named after next-door Burlington House (which houses the Royal Academy of Arts), was allegedly created by Lord Cavendish in the 1810s in order to protect the cleanliness and order of Burlington House. It was one of the first European shopping arcades, and remains one to this day. The Arcade is an elegantly decorated passageway that caters to those with luxury tastes – undoubtedly the same people who will continue on with their shopping up Old and New Bond Streets. The Arcade specializes in high-end goods, particularly jewelry, footwear, perfumes and antiques. Even if you are not interested in high-end goods, there are still a few attractions for those with an eye to industrial design, such as the store that specializes in antique Rolex watches, with displays of watches from nearly every year of the past century.
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.
Downing Street is the home of the British Primeminster at 10 Downing Street and the Chancellor of the Exchequer at number 11. It was once possible to walk through Downing Street but due to terrorist attacks and the constant threat of these, the street is now gated and guarded by armed policemen.
However you can stand at the gates and look in to the street as the photo shows. Of course on some days you may even see famous politicians or world leaders come through the gates in official cars.
10 Downing Street is the dark building in the photo.
Ah, politics, politics, always politics.
I have just constructed a seperate tip on the Cenotaph in London, a monument to the dead initially of the Great War but latterly come to represent the dead of all conflicts. I had to tiptoe round issues of the legitimacy of war, current British military activities etc. Now, i come to write a tip on another monument, not 200 yards from the Cenotaph, and I find myself tiptoeing again. Those of you who have met me will know that I am a large and rather ungainly man, and tiptoeing really isn't my thing, so I will try to present a balanced view and hope I do not offend either individual readers or the VT staff. Neither could be further from my intention.
The monument in question is dedicated to the "Women of World War II" and is situated, as I say, in the middle of Whitehall which places it not far from the Prime Ministers official residence in Downing Street also not far from Parliament in Whitehall. I will deal with the specifics first and then try to deal in a measured way with the politics.
The title of this tip is "a fairly new addition". This is true, the statue being unveiled by HM the Queen on July 9th 2005. Obviously, Her Majesty served herself as a young woman then. It is made to the design of John W. Mills, is 22 feet high and cost a sizeable one million pounds sterling. The typeface used in the lettering is, we are told, that used on wartime ration books and the clothing you can see depicted on the memorial represent some of the many uniforms worn by women in various services during that conflict.
Now, here is where the politics rears it's ugly head. The monument has come in for criticism on equality grounds. There is no specific monument to males who were far and away the largest proportion of British victims of the Second World War. Whether rightly or wrongly, in the 1940's women were not allowed combat roles, although obviously many served with huge distinction and courage in covert roles in occupied Europe, often at great personal risk and in other dangerous occupations. Women worked in munitions factories, ran public transport etc. etc. because basically all the men were away fighting. Undoubtedly, women played a vital role on the "home front" although some would suggerst that the extremely prominent positioning of this monument represents the power of the 21st century feminist lobby. If you walk down Whitehall, you will see what I mean by prominent.
Supporters of the monument would suggest that, because of the nature of society during the Second world War, women were overlooked in recognition for what they did. For what it is worth, I think it is an aesthetically pleasing monument and very moving. The helmets and coats suggest to me a coatrack outside an Ops Room somewhere during the Blitz, or some similarly precarious position. I do, however, wonder if £1 million was required. Would a less ostentatious memorial costing, perhaps £500,000 and the remainder going to charities supporting what are now elderly ladies, have been more appropriate? I should declare an interest here and say that two of my aunts served in the WAAF during that conflict.
Hopefully I have not transgressed VT's strict and absolutely correct rules on politics here, but I feel that it is impossible to provide a proper view for the visitor without at least mentioning these things. Whether you agree with it or not, it is there and it is worth a visit.
I am not sure whether I have mentioned in my various VT pages that I was in the British Army, I know I have definitely mentioned it in forum replies. It is, generally speaking, not relevant to tips on a travel site but I feel it merits mention here, and I am going to have to tread carefully whilst writing this tip as it is an emotive subject, namely that of war and death.
Every year, on the Sunday in November nearest to the 11th, there is an Act of Remembrance presided over by the Monarch and observed in London. It is replicated in most towns and villages across the country as old service personnel from many different campaigns parade with their medals ond berets and regimental ties, and youth associations and just about every other body show their respect for the dead. The focal point for the ceremony in London is the Cenotaph which stands in the middle of Whitehall, not far from the Prime Ministers official residence at Downing Street and a short walk from Parliament at Westminster, so it really is at the heart of the city.
You may not be aware why it is the nearest Sunday to 11th November, so I shall explain. The First World War, or Great War as it was then called, officially came to an end with the German surrender and ended at 1100 hours on 11th November 1918, making it the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. The crux of the Act of Remembrance is a two minute silence observed at this time. There then follows a marchpast of old soldiers, sailors, airmen and numerous other organisations. I attend every year and it is extremely moving. I shall construct a travelogue in relation to this ceremony when I have time. If you are in London on that day, I do recommend you go, you can just turn up and line the route.
If, however, you are in London on any of the other 364 days of the year, I still recommend you visit the Cenotaph. There was an Allied Victory Parade in 1919 on the first anniversary of the Armistice but the structure you see now had not been constructed so a wood and plaster structure, designed by Sir Edward Lutyens, did duty. Lutyens later designed this permanent structure which is made of Portland stone.
Whilst originally intended to commemorate the dead of the Great War, obviously there have been many, many more conflicts since, notably the Second World War, again with horrific loss of life. The Cenotaph now serves as a national focus for the dead of all conflicts and it is worth visiting to remember the historic and ongoing sacrifices made.
On a practical level, be careful when trying to get that good picture. Remember, the Cenotaph is situated in the middle of a busy road and I have seen a few near misses with people taking photos in the most idiotic places.