Unless you are invited, it’s very difficult to have a photo on the steps of 10 Downing Street, but just up the road is a doorway that bears an uncanny resemblance to it.
What is officially 7-10 Adam House can be found on Adam Street just off Strand and is a row of town houses built in 1768-74 by, unsurprisingly, Robert Adam.
The similarity with Downing Street is remarkable, considering that Downing Street was laid out some 80 years earlier. However, the famous door was added in the 1770s, when the then Prime Minister, Lord North redecorated the main entrance. Well, he paid other people to do it for him.
There are enough differences between 10 Adam Street and 10 Downing Street that a regular observer of politics will easily spot the subterfuge, but I would say it probably does the job for most people.
Apart from the famously skewed zero in the door number, and the door knocker – what you won’t see is that the official door is now made of blast-proof steel, just in case, and the letterbox on the front is a fake decoration – the door is itself solid. They also keep a spare in storage, just in case.
And of course, the real 10 Downing Street doesn’t have a lock on the door — as it’s always opened from the inside.
It’s a curiosity about that famous door that it’s so famous at all. Obviously, because every visiting dignitary has their photo taken on the doorstep, but name me any other major political building that’s as famous for its entrance. In part that can be put down to the grandeur of most government buildings, so there’s always a dozen or so grand rooms to do the photoshoot in, and let us be honest, grand rooms tend to look a bit alike, but 10 Downing Street is sufficiently small and cozy inside that a big photoshoot is quite difficult to arrange.
Hence, of necessity, the door became used for every single photo shoot, and with the plain black backdrop with those two bronze numbers peeking over their heads, it’s become an iconic location.
Adam Street nearly didn’t end up being a facsimile for 10 Downing Street though, because when Downing Street was first laid out, the official home of the First Lord of the Treasury was known as 5 Downing Street, but a renumbering of the buildings in 1787 turned 5 into 10.
While Adam Street was laid out with houses from 1 to 10, numbers 1-5 were later demolished.
So, by a quirk of fate, were the Prime Minister to be living at what was originally 5 Downing Street, then Adam Street would be of no use as a replacement for selfies.
One of the other oddities about 10 Adam Street is that it doesn’t appear on Google Street view – every other part of Adam Street is visible, but there’s a fog over number 10 that’s been there ever since Google Street View first arrived in London.
And finally, while 10 Adam Street is good enough for the random tourist selfie, it’s not good enough for TV and film, but they have used a nearby location that if fake details are added is quite a decent effect — it’s the fire escape for the RSA on John Adam Street.