This place has always been on the 'fringe' of things that I've wanted to see in London. Its association with Whitehall palace has always intrigued me, as I enjoy reading about Henry VIII and Elizabethan times.
The Banqueting House is all the remains of this great palace, and really only the one room to see. Its key factor is the ceiling, which is amazing, and the view out the window onto Whitehall. There is a movie playing in the downstairs, which shows the history of the place, and a few pictures, and documents, then you go up the stairs, to the hall, and basically stare at the ceiling for a really long time!!
There is a great audio tour, that explains things really well, which is nice, otherwise this would be a really short stop. You definitely don't need to plan for more than an hour here, but do stop in, its on a great tourist road to walk on!!
Hasn't everyone got one of these on their London page??? We were just passing through.... and I just thought "oh well... might as well take a pic now I am here..." I mean some people visiting London go out of their way to see these guys sitting here for hours on end.. they are trained not to make eye contact with tourists!!! Poor horse is bored witless, 'cos if it thought about it for just a nano-second he would think.... "hey I could just rush this lot... chuck lardarse off my back and be in St James Park having a dip in the lake rather than stand here with these irritating tourists all day!!". But horses don't really think too much.... they are so gorgeous they just behave and do as they are told... bless.
This was surely a place that me and Dennis both adored, we loved it so much that we came back again and again. British art and history that you read and see on television, you hear about it from so many sources yet when you see it with your own eyes, the thousands of years that have gone and the history that has been preserved. Be sure to check out http://www.number-10.gov.uk for awsome info and to know more about planning out your activities in the area.
Once the tiltyard of Whitehall Palace, where jousting tournaments were held in the time of Henry VIII. The Horse Guards Parade is now notable mainly for the annual Trooping the Colour ceremony, in which the Queen takes the Royal Salute, her official birthday gift, on the second Saturday in June.
The current Horse Guards building dates from the mid-eighteenth century.
The former Admiralty citadel can be found on the north side of Horse Guards Parade. It was constructed in 1940-1941 as a bomb-proof operations centre for the Admiralty. Now covered in ivy if you look closely you'll see the small windows intended as firing positions. The concrete roof made 6 metres thick is covered in grass so it would be missed during air attacks in the 2nd World War. It is also thought to have a secret tunnel connected with Buckingham Palace in case of evacuation.
As we walked from Westminster Abbey toward Trafalger Square, we passed Horse Guards Parade in the Whitehall area. Two mounted members of the Household Cavalry were performing guard duties at the sidewalk entrance to the the Parade, and they had a good crowd of tourists around them jostling for position. I walked inside the gate a short distance and found another dismounted trooper on guard with various tourists posing beside him for photo opportunities (second photo).
The Horse Guards Parade was built in 1745 and is where the daily changing of the guard ceremony takes place for the troops who provide protection for British Royalty when they are in London. The Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment is made up of a squadron from each of the two senior cavalry regiments of the British Army. One squadron is drawn from The Life Guards (shown here with their scarlet tunics and white helmet plumes) while the other is from The Blues and Royals with their blue tunics and red plumes.
The cabinet war rooms are run by the Imperial War Museum. Entry is 11 pounds, and is from King William Street (one over from Downing street) at the rear of the Foreign and commonwealth office.
This is, of course, not the original entrance, but once inside Churchill's wartime bunker has been faithfully re-created or restored. Many of the contents were removed shortly after end of WW2, so many items may be historically correct, if not the actual ones used during those years.
The map room, cabinet room , cramped living quarters and all the 'gubbins' that goes with such an enterprise are all interesting to see.
Many people are fascinated by the transatlantic telephone room. Here Churchill could talk on a secure line to the United States president (the actually scambing equipment was in the basement of selfridges department store). The room was signed as a private toilet, and had an 'engaged' lock on it to match. Some say this was for security, so nobody listened in. I doubt this very much : anyone in the bunker would have had top-level clearance. It was therefore more likely just a device to warn people to be quiet.
I also suspect that the War rooms have yet to reveal all their secrets - I believe that there may well be a secret underground station down there, for a dire emergency or communication with other important goverment centres.
Since I last visited nine new rooms have been added. These were the rooms the Churchill family used, and in addition there is an extensive museum devoted to the man himself.
Who can forget (having seen it) this wonderful line from Monty Python :
"Minister: (rising) Mr Pudey, (he walks about behind the desk in a very silly fashion) the very real problem is one of money. I'm afraid that the Ministry of Silly Walks is no longer getting the kind of support it needs. You see there's Defence, Social Security, Health, Housing, Education, Silly Walks ... they're all supposed to get the same. But last year, the Government spent less on the Ministry of Silly Walks than it did on National Defence !"
You won't find this place of course, but many of the the other organs (I use the word advisedly) can be found along the road that connects Trafalgar Square with Westminster square. 'Whitehall' is often used in the UK as shorthand for 'government', and halfway alonf you will find one of the most famous addesses in the world '10 Downing street'. I rather like the fact that the PM lives in a very ordinary sounding place rather than a grand castle, palace, residency or house. I can still remember when you could nearly walk up to the front door unopposed or unquestioned. Those days have long gone - Maggie Thatcher had the gates put up at the end of the cul-de-sac (keeps the riff-raff out at least).
No visits are possible to No 10 (unless you have a meeting with the PM), although I would recommend a visit to the nearby Cabinet war rooms where government operated from during the blitz of WW2.
Whitehall itself, apart from the imposing Portland-stone clad ministries, contains a fair number of statues (many of which are now rather obsure), the cenotaph (in commemoration of the war dead), the Whitehall theatre (famous for it's farces - just like Downing street !) and the rather excellent Red Lion pub (has it's own division bell for members of Parliament)
Not that you can walk the street since it is fenced off and guarded night and day but this is where the Prime Minister (and Chancellor for that matter) has his/her official residence so often portraited in films and featuring on the news channels of the World. Number 10 is the PM's pad where statesmen can set foot but the rest of us will have to read up on it on the website below.
Jewel Tower was built in 1365 to house Edward III’s treasures. It was only one of only two buildings of the original Palace of Westminster to survive the fire of 1834. It is now a museum displaying a history of ‘Parliament Past and Present’.
There is an entrance fee of 2.90 for adults, and 1.50 for children (in pounds). Free to members of the English Heritage.
Horse Guards are elegant buildings designed by William Kent and completed in 1755 to house the old palace guards.
The guards are changed every hour on the striking of the clock.
Horse Guards is also the setting for the Trooping of the Colour by the Queen’s personal troops on her Majesty’s official birthday (6 June).
No. 10 Downing Street is supposedly the official residence of the Prime Minister of England. You can also view it from the gates, as tourists are also not allowed to get inside. Nothing much to see though, so just pass by the area if you happen to be near, but not on purpose as you may just be disappointed.
On the Whitehall riverside, York Palace had been the official London Residence of the Archbishops of York since 1245. In 1529, King Henry VIII decided that as part of his reformation he would acquire the Palace from Cardinal Wolsey. He re-naming it The Palace of Whitehall and extended it almost from Charing Cross to Westminster.
Across the road, open ground, now called St James's Park was also acquired by the King as a private Royal hunting ground. What was his hunting lodge now survives as St James's Palace.
In 1533, Henry VIII, passionate about horsemanship and martial combat, commissioned a Tiltyard, or Jousting Ground on the site where Horse Guards now stands. It was his daughter, Queen Elizabeth I, who started two annual jousting festivals, on her accession day and on her birthday. To this day the tradition of Royal Birthday Celebrations on Horse Guards continues with the annual Trooping (of) the Colour on the Queen's Birthday Parade.
You can see the 'changing of the guards' on the Whitehall side...
There is nothing much to see, except the Royal Guard on a horse at Whitehall and the London policemen with their "helmets" in front of Numbe 10. So if you want to know where the real power lies and decisions are made, it is here in Downing Street and not Buckingham Palace.
Just a few minutes to take some photos to say that I was there.
This is a fascinating group of rooms which constituted the underground headquarters of the British government when London was under attack. It is fortified with 3 foot thick walls of concrete and of course is under ground and accessible during the war only from the offices above. Everything was left in place at the end of the war so you walk through a 1945 time warp and see where Churchill slept and even his chamber pot. It is an interesting and educational view of the map room and the nerve center of England's war effort. Admission is around 5 pounds.
The entry shows the way it probably looked during WWII with sandbags still fortifying the door and front walls.