Downing Street

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Downing Street is the street in London, England, United Kingdom, which for over two hundred years has contained the official residences of two of the most senior British cabinet ministers: the First Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The most famous address in Downing Street is 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the First Lord of the Treasury—and thus, in modern times, the residence of the Prime Minister. Number 11 is likewise a term for the Chancellor of the Exchequer or his or her office.

Downing Street is located in Whitehall in central London, a few minutes' walk from the Houses of Parliament and a little farther from Buckingham Palace. The street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet (1632–1689) on the site of a mansion called Hampden House. The Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chief Whip all have official residences in buildings along one side of the street. The houses on the other side were all replaced by the Foreign Office in the nineteenth century.

Contents

History

The street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet (1632–1689) on the site of a mansion called Hampden House. Downing was a soldier and diplomat who served under Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II, and who invested in properties and acquired considerable wealth.[1][2][3] In 1654, he purchased the lease on land south of Saint James's Park, adjacent to the House at the Back, and within walking distance of Parliament. Downing planned to build a row of townhouses designed "for persons of good quality to inhabit in..." [4] However, the Hampden family had a lease which prevented construction of the houses for thirty years.[5] When the Hampden lease expired, Downing received permission to build further west to take advantage of recent real estate developments. The new warrant issued in 1682 reads: "Sir George Downing ... [is authorised] to build new and more houses further westward on the grounds granted him by the patent of 1663/4 Feb. 23. The present grant is by reason that the said Cockpit or the greater part thereof is since demolished; but it is to be subject to the proviso that it be not built any nearer than 14 feet of the wall of the said Park at the West end thereof." [4]

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