Tours of 10 Downing Street

As politicians traipse into 10 Downing Street to learn what second jobs they will get in addition to being an MP, I decided to brag dig out this photo of the time I once also passed through those hallowed doors.

I was fortunate to have a guided tour of the main state rooms of the building on the first floor, although I didn’t get to see the ground floor Cabinet Room as it was in use at the time. Well, it is a working building after all!

The tour was quite facinating, and unlike most old houses (or Buckingham Palace), we were not held back from anything by ropes or stern admonitions not to touch things – it was a very hands (and bums) on tour, including sitting on some very expensive chairs in the pillared room as our genial guide regaled us with anecdotes about the building, and gossip about politicians who have worked there.

At the top of the famous staircase is a small waiting room with various notable exhibits, including a very small Union Flag that had been taken up to the moon on that first landing – and a bust of Winston Churchill with a rather polished head. There is a superstition that touching Winston’s head brings good luck, so, errm, why not. You never know!

Of course, now every time a TV show features the inside of 10 Downing Street, I can shout at the screen about the bits they get wrong!

In fact, I am not sure why a TV studio hasn’t built an accurate mock-up of the interior of the building, considering how often it features on Dr Who nowadays. Must be cheaper than hiring a posh house each time.

Although tours are not really available to the general public, if you represent a “suitable organisation”, take a punt and  write to 10 Downing Street asking to be considered for a tour. If your letter gets to the right person and manages to tick the necessary requirements – I took several attempts, and still don’t know what tipped the balance – then a formal application has to be filled in. That in turn is considered by a Committee. After all that, if approved, there is a long waiting list and the group I represented waited about a year before we were allowed inside.

But it was worth the wait.

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4 Comments

  1. I assume no photography was allowed inside? All the same, great pic for impressing all and sundry…!

    • IanVisits

      Sadly photography inside was totally forbidden. It was about the only thing they were strict about.

      You can get a virtual tour of the inside on the 10 Downing Street website though. My favourite anecdote is that there is the figure of a roof thatcher in the plasterwork that was added in the 1980s. There will always be a Thatcher in Downing Street.

  2. Ashley W

    Hi Ian

    Do you have a rough layout of the place?

  3. Drummerboy

    hi ian. long time reader of your blog. i know this is bit of an old post but i’ve been looking for things to visit for my own blog, and came across this one. i tend to focus on the mainstream stuff (the kind of touristy places that you avoid!) but ive been up the top of big ben and done the house of commons and house of lords. i never thought that downing street was possible, though, and you’ve given me a sliver of hope. i would love to know how you managed to swing an invite. did you just put a group together through your ianvisits website? im hoping i might be able to do the same with londondrum

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