Downing Street, SW1A

Road in/near Westminster, existing between 1684 and now

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Road · Westminster · SW1A ·
July
19
2020

Downing Street has been the home of British Prime Minsters since the eighteenth century.

For more than three hundred years Downing Street has held the official residences of the First Lord of the Treasury, an office now synonymous with that of Prime Minister, and the Second Lord of the Treasury, an office held by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Prime Minister’s official residence is 10 Downing Street; the Chancellor’s official residence is next door at Number 11. The government’s Chief Whip has an official residence at Number 12, although the current Chief Whip’s residence is at Number 9.

The street was built in the 1680s by Sir George Downing, 1st Baronet, on the site of a mansion, Hampden House. What was on the site before the mansion is vague, but there is evidence towards a brewhouse called The Axe, owned by the Abbey of Abingdon. Downing was a soldier and diplomat who served under Oliver Cromwell and King Charles II, and who invested in properties and acquired considerable wealth. In 1654, he purchased the lease on land east 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 "for persons of good quality to inhabit". However, the Hampden family had a lease which prevented their construction for 30 years. When the Hampden lease expired, Downing received permission to build further west to take advantage of recent 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."

Between 1682 and 1684, Downing built the cul-de-sac of two-storey townhouses with coach-houses, stables and views of St James’s Park. How many he built is not clear; most historians say 15, others say 20. The addresses changed several times; Number 10 was numbered 5 for a while, and was renumbered in 1787. Downing employed Sir Christopher Wren to design the houses. Although large, they were put up quickly and cheaply on soft soil with shallow foundations. The fronts had facades with lines painted on the surface imitating brick mortar. Winston Churchill wrote that Number 10 was "shaky and lightly built by the profiteering contractor whose name they bear".

The upper end of the Downing Street cul-de-sac closed access to St James’s Park, making the street quiet and private. An advertisement in 1720 described it as "a pretty open Place, especially at the upper end, where are four or five very large and well-built Houses, fit for Persons of Honour and Quality; each House having a pleasant Prospect into St James’s Park, with a Tarras Walk". The houses had several distinguished residents. The Countess of Yarmouth lived at Number 10 between 1688 and 1689, Lord Lansdowne from 1692 to 1696 and the Earl of Grantham from 1699 to 1703. The diarist James Boswell took rooms in Downing Street during his stay in London during 1762–63 at a rent of £22 per annum. He records having dealings with prostitutes in the adjacent park.

Downing probably never lived in his townhouses. In 1675 he retired to Cambridge, where he died a few months after the houses were completed. His portrait hangs in the entrance foyer of the modern Number 10.

The Downing family also built Downing College, Cambridge, which was established in 1800, after its founder Sir George Downing, 3rd Baronet, left a portion of his estate to establish Downing College when the land became available. (A door from Number 10 is in use in the college).

The houses between Number 10 and Whitehall were acquired by the government and demolished in 1824 to allow the construction of the Privy Council Office, Board of Trade and Treasury offices. In 1861 the houses on the south side of Downing Street were replaced by purpose-built government offices for the Foreign Office, India Office, Colonial Office, and the Home Office.

Barriers were erected at the St James’s Park end of the street for the unveiling of the Cenotaph on 11 November 1920. They were a public safety measure intended to prevent the crowds in Whitehall becoming too dense.

When the movement for Irish independence became increasingly violent, it was decided to retain the barriers, which were raised and strengthened. On 26 November 1920 construction commenced on a wooden barricade, 8 feet (2.4 m) high at the end of the street. They were described as being of a "substantial character" mounted on proper foundations and incorporated vehicle gates. The barriers were taken down in 1922 when the Irish Free State was created.

Vehicle access was curtailed in 1973 when metal barriers were placed across the entrance to the street. In 1974, the Metropolitan Police proposed erecting a semi-permanent barrier between the pavement and carriageway on the Foreign Office side to keep pedestrians off the main part of the street. The proposal came with assurances that tourists would still be permitted to take photographs at the door of Number 10. The Prime Minister, Harold Wilson, rejected the proposal, feeling that it would appear to be an unacceptable restriction of the freedom of the public. Wilson’s private secretary wrote "I much regret this further erosion of the Englishman’s right to wander at will in Downing Street."

In 1982 access was further restricted by railings and a demountable gate. They were replaced by black steel gates in 1989. The increase in security was due to an increase in violence, particularly by the IRA during The Troubles.




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CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE LOCALITY



The Underground Map   
Added: 8 Dec 2020 00:24 GMT   

Othello takes a bow
On 1 November 1604, William Shakespeare’s tragedy Othello was presented for the first time, at The Palace of Whitehall. The palace was the main residence of the English monarchs in London from 1530 until 1698. Seven years to the day, Shakespeare’s romantic comedy The Tempest was also presented for the first time, and also at the Palace of Whitehall.

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Linda Webb   
Added: 27 Sep 2021 05:51 GMT   

Hungerford Stairs
In 1794 my ancestor, George Webb, Clay Pipe Maker, lived in Hungerford Stairs, Strand. Source: Wakefields Merchant & Tradesmens General Directory London Westminster 1794

Source: Hungerford Stairs

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Roy Batham   
Added: 7 Jan 2022 07:17 GMT   

Smithy in Longacre
John Burris 1802-1848 Listed 1841 census as Burroughs was a blacksmith, address just given as Longacre.

Source: Batham/Wiseman - Family Tree

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Scott Hatton   
Added: 11 Sep 2020 19:47 GMT   

Millions Of Rats In Busy London
The Daily Mail on 14 April 1903 reported "MILLIONS OF RATS IN BUSY LONDON"

A rat plague, unprecedented in the annals of London, has broken out on the north side of the Strand. The streets principally infested are Catherine street, Drury lane, Blackmore street, Clare Market and Russell street. Something akin to a reign of terror prevails among the inhabitants after nightfall. Women refuse to pass along Blackmore street and the lower parts of Stanhope street after dusk, for droves of rats perambulate the roadways and pavements, and may be seen running along the window ledges of the empty houses awaiting demolition by the County Council in the Strand to Holborn improvement scheme.

The rats, indeed, have appeared in almost-incredible numbers. "There are millions of them," said one shopkeeper, and his statement was supported by other residents. The unwelcome visitors have been evicted from their old haunts by the County Council housebreakers, and are now busily in search of new homes. The Gaiety Restaurant has been the greatest sufferer. Rats have invaded the premises in such force that the managers have had to close the large dining room on the first floor and the grill rooms on the ground floor and in the basement. Those three spacious halls which have witnessed many as semblages of theatre-goers are now qui:e deserted. Behind the wainscot of the bandstand in the grillroom is a large mound of linen shreds. This represents 1728 serviettes carried theee by the rats.

In the bar the removal of a panel disclosed the astonishing fact that the rats have dragged for a distance of seven or eight yards some thirty or forty beer and wine bottles and stacked them in such a fashion as to make comfortable sleeping places. Mr Williams. the manager of the restaurant, estimates that the rats have destroyed L200 worth of linen. Formerly the Gaiety Restaurant dined 2000 persons daily; no business whatever is now done in this direction.

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Bruce McTavish   
Added: 11 Mar 2021 11:37 GMT   

Kennington Road
Lambeth North station was opened as Kennington Road and then Westminster Bridge Road before settling on its final name. It has a wonderful Leslie Green design.

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Lived here
Julian    
Added: 23 Mar 2021 10:11 GMT   

Dennis Potter
Author Dennis Potter lived in Collingwood House in the 1970’s

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Jessie Doring   
Added: 22 Feb 2021 04:33 GMT   

Tisbury Court Jazz Bar
Jazz Bar opened in Tisbury Court by 2 Australians. Situated in underground basement. Can not remember how long it opened for.

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Pauline jones   
Added: 16 Oct 2017 19:04 GMT   

Bessborough Place, SW1V
I grew up in bessborough place at the back of our house and Grosvenor road and bessborough gardens was a fantastic playground called trinity mews it had a paddling pool sandpit football area and various things to climb on, such as a train , slide also as Wendy house. There were plants surrounding this wonderful play area, two playground attendants ,also a shelter for when it rained. The children were constantly told off by the playground keepers for touching the plants or kicking the ball out of the permitted area, there was hopscotch as well, all these play items were brick apart from the slide. Pollock was the centre of my universe and I felt sorry and still do for anyone not being born there. To this day I miss it and constantly look for images of the streets around there, my sister and me often go back to take a clumped of our beloved London. The stucco houses were a feature and the backs of the houses enabled parents to see thier children playing.

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Robert smitherman   
Added: 23 Aug 2017 11:01 GMT   

Saunders Street, SE11
I was born in a prefab on Saunders street SE11 in the 60’s, when I lived there, the road consisted of a few prefab houses, the road originally ran from Lollard street all the way thru to Fitzalan street. I went back there to have a look back in the early 90’s but all that is left of the road is about 20m of road and the road sign.

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Lived here
Richard Roques   
Added: 21 Jan 2021 16:53 GMT   

Buckingham Street residents
Here in Buckingham Street lived Samuel Pepys the diarist, Charles Dickens and Rudyard Kipling

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Jude Allen   
Added: 29 Jul 2021 07:53 GMT   

Bra top
I jave a jewelled item of clothong worn by a revie girl.
It is red with diamante straps. Inside it jas a label Bermans Revue 16 Orange Street but I cannot find any info online about the revue only that 16 Orange Street used to be a theatre. Does any one know about the revue. I would be intesrested to imagine the wearer of the article and her London life.

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Born here
sam   
Added: 31 Dec 2021 00:54 GMT   

Burdett Street, SE1
I was on 2nd July 1952, in Burdett chambers (which is also known as Burdett buildings)on Burdett street

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LATEST LONDON-WIDE CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PROJECT

Comment
   
Added: 14 Jan 2022 03:06 GMT   

Goldbourne Gardens W 10
I lived in Goldbourne Gardens in the 50,s very happy big bomb site

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Chris Nash   
Added: 10 Jan 2022 22:54 GMT   

Shortlands Close, DA17
Shortlands Close and the flats along it were constructed in the mid-1990s. Prior to this, the area was occupied by semi-detached houses with large gardens, which dated from the post-war period and were built on the site of Railway Farm. The farm and its buildings spanned the length of Abbey Road, on the south side of the North Kent Line railway tracks.

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Roy Batham   
Added: 7 Jan 2022 07:17 GMT   

Smithy in Longacre
John Burris 1802-1848 Listed 1841 census as Burroughs was a blacksmith, address just given as Longacre.

Source: Batham/Wiseman - Family Tree

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Roy Batham   
Added: 7 Jan 2022 05:50 GMT   

Batham Family (1851 - 1921)
I start with William Batham 1786-1852 born in St.Martins Middlesex. From various sources I have found snippets of information concerning his early life. A soldier in 1814 he married Mary Champelovier of Huguenot descent By 1819 they were in Kensington where they raised 10 children. Apart from soldier his other occupations include whitesmith, bell hanger and pig breeder. I find my first record in the 1851 English sensus. No street address is given, just ’The Potteries’. He died 1853. Only one child at home then George Batham 1839-1923, my great grandfather. By 1861 he is living in Thomas St. Kensington with his mother. A bricklayer by trade 1871, married and still in Thomas St. 1881 finds him in 5,Martin St. Kensington. 1891 10,Manchester St. 1911, 44 Hunt St Hammersmith. Lastly 1921 Census 7, Mersey St. which has since been demolished.

Source: Batham/Wiseman - Family Tree

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Lived here
John Neill   
Added: 25 Nov 2021 11:30 GMT   

Sandringham Road, E10 (1937 - 1966)
I lived at No. 61 with my parents during these years. I went to Canterbury Road school (now Barclay Primary) and sang as a boy soprano (treble) in the church choir at St Andrew’s church, on the corner of Forest Glade.
Opposite us lived the Burgess family. Their son Russell also sang in my choir as a tenor. He later became a well-known musician and the choirmaster at Wandsworth Boys’ School.
Just at the end of WW2 a German rocket (V2) landed in the grounds of Whipps Cross Hospital, damaging many of the houses in Sandringham Road, including ours.

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Tim Stevenson   
Added: 16 Nov 2021 18:03 GMT   

Pub still open
The Bohemia survived the 2020/21 lockdowns and is still a thriving local social resource.

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STEPHEN JACKSON   
Added: 14 Nov 2021 17:25 GMT   

Fellows Court, E2
my family moved into the tower block 13th floor (maisonette), in 1967 after our street Lenthall rd e8 was demolished, we were one of the first families in the new block. A number of families from our street were rehoused in this and the adjoining flats. Inside toilet and central heating, all very modern at the time, plus eventually a tarmac football pitch in the grounds,(the cage), with a goal painted by the kids on the brick wall of the railway.

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STEPHEN ARTHUR JACKSON   
Added: 14 Nov 2021 17:12 GMT   

Lynedoch Street, E2
my father Arthur Jackson was born in lynedoch street in 1929 and lived with mm grandparents and siblings, until they were relocated to Pamela house Haggerston rd when the street was to be demolished

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NEARBY LOCATIONS OF NOTE
Embankment Embankment underground station has been known by various names during its long history - including, indeed, ’Embankment’.
Hungerford Bridge Hungerford Bridge is a rail bridge crossing the Thames into Charing Cross station.
Royal Society The Royal Society is a self-governing Fellowship of many of the world’s most distinguished scientists drawn from all areas of science, engineering and medicine.
St James’s St James’s is an exclusive area in the West End of London.
Westminster Westminster - heart of government.
Westminster Abbey Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, is one of the world’s greatest churches.

NEARBY STREETS
Birdcage Walk, SW1H Birdcage Walk runs east from Great George Street, along the south side of St James’s Park.
Bridge Street, SW1A Bridge Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Broad Sanctuary, SW1P Broad Sanctuary is a road in the SW1H postcode area
Butler Place, SW1H Butler Place is one of the streets of London in the SW1H postal area.
Canon Row, SW1A Canon Row is at least one thousand year’s old.
Carlton Gardens, SW1Y Carlton Gardens was developed before 1832.
Carlton House Terrace, SW1Y Carlton House Terrace consists of a pair of terraces - white stucco-faced houses on the south side of the street overlooking St. James’s Park.
Carteret Street, SW1H Carteret Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1H postal area.
Chubb Court, SW1P Chubb Court is a road in the SW20 postcode area
Cockpit Steps, SW1H Cockpit Steps leads from Birdcage Walk to Old Queen Street.
Commissioner’s Yard, SW1A Commissioner’s Yard is a small street behind New Scotland Yard.
Dartmouth Street, SW1H Dartmouth Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1H postal area.
Derby Gate, SW1A Derby Gate is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Duke Street, SW1Y Duke Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1Y postal area.
Fludyer Street, SW1A Fludyer Street used to be a street which lay parallel to, and south of, Downing Street.
Golden Jubilee Bridge, WC2N Golden Jubilee Bridge is a road in the WC2N postcode area
Great George Street, SW1P Great George Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1P postal area.
Great Scotland Yard, SW1A Great Scotland Yard is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Horse Guards Avenue, SW1A Horse Guards Avenue is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Horse Guards Parade, SW1A Horse Guards Parade dates to the time of Henry VIII.
Horse Guards Road, SW1A Horse Guards Road is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
King Charles Street, SW1A King Charles Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
King Street, SW1A King Street was an ancient thoroughfare between the regions of the Court and the Abbey in Westminster.
Little George Street, SW1P Little George Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1P postal area.
Matthew Parker Street, SW1H The Most Reverend Matthew Parker was Archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 until 1575.
Millbank, SW1A Millbank is a road in the SE1 postcode area
Norman Shaw Building North, SW1A Norman Shaw Building North is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Northumberland Avenue, SW1A Northumberland Avenue runs from Trafalgar Square in the west to the Thames Embankment in the east.
Octagon Mall, Octagon Mall lies within the postcode.
Old Queen Street, SW1H Old Queen Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1H postal area.
Pall Mall, SW1Y Pall Mall is one of the streets of London in the SW1Y postal area.
Parliament Square, SW1A Parliament Square is one of the most important squares in Westminster, home to the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
Parliament Street, SW1A Parliament Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Price’s Court, SW1P A street within the SW1P postcode
Queen Anne’s Gate, SW1H This is a street in the SW1H postcode area
Queen Annes Gate Buildings, SW1H Queen Annes Gate Buildings is one of the streets of London in the SW1H postal area.
Queen Annes Gate, SW1H Queen Annes Gate is one of the streets of London in the SW1H postal area.
Queens Gardens, SW1A Queens Gardens is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Richmond House Whitehall, SW1A Richmond House Whitehall is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Richmond Terrace, SW1A Richmond Terrace is a road in the SW1A postcode area
Rochford Southend East, SW1A Rochford Southend East is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Spring Gardens, WC2N Spring Gardens derives its name from the Spring Garden, formed in the 16th century as an addition to the pleasure grounds of Whitehall Palace.
St. Margaret Street, SW1P St Margaret Street is the road immediately outside Westminster Hall.
Storey’s Gate, SW1H Abraham Storey, one of Wren’s master-masons, built Storey’s Gate that now commemorates his name.
The Queen’s Steps, SE1 The Queen’s Steps is a road in the SE1 postcode area
The Queen’s Walk, SE1 This is a street in the SE1 postcode area
The Queen’s Walk, SE1 The Queen’s Walk is a road in the SE1 postcode area
The Sanctuary, SW1P The Sanctuary is one of the streets of London in the SW1P postal area.
The Terrace, SW1A The Terrace is a road in the SW1A postcode area
Tothill Street, SW1H Tothill Street is one of the streets of London in the SW1H postal area.
Victoria Embankment, SW1A Victoria Embankment is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Westminster Bridge, SE1 Westminster Bridge links Westminster on the west side with Lambeth on the east side.
Westminster Central Hall, SW1H Westminster Central Hall is one of the streets of London in the SW1H postal area.
Westminster Pier, SW1A Westminster Pier is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Whitehall Court, SW1A Whitehall Court is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Whitehall Gardens, SW1A Whitehall Gardens is a road in the SW1A postcode area
Whitehall Place, SW1A Whitehall Place is one of the streets of London in the SW1A postal area.
Whitehall, SW1A Whitehall is recognised as the centre of the government of the United Kingdom.

NEARBY PUBS
Namco Funscape This pub existed immediately prior to the 2020 global pandemic and may still do so.


Westminster

Westminster - heart of government.

While the underground station dates from 1868, Westminster itself is almost as old as London itself. It has a large concentration of London’s historic and prestigious landmarks and visitor attractions, including the Palace of Westminster, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.

Historically part of the parish of St Margaret in the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex, the name Westminster was the ancient description for the area around Westminster Abbey the West Minster, or monastery church, that gave the area its name which has been the seat of the government of England (and later the British government) for almost a thousand years.

Westminster is the location of the Palace of Westminster, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which houses the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The area has been the seat of the government of England for almost a thousand years. Westminster is thus often used as a metonym for Parliament and the political community of the United Kingdom generally. The civil service is similarly referred to by the area it inhabits, Whitehall, and Westminster is consequently also used in reference to the ’Westminster System’, the parliamentary model of democratic government that has evolved in the United Kingdom.

The historic core of Westminster is the former Thorney Island on which Westminster Abbey was built. The Abbey became the traditional venue of the coronation of the kings and queens of England. The nearby Palace of Westminster came to be the principal royal residence after the Norman conquest of England in 1066, and later housed the developing Parliament and law courts of England. It can be said that London thus has developed two distinct focal points: an economic one in the City of London; and a political and cultural one in Westminster, where the Royal Court had its home. This division is still very apparent today.

The monarchy later moved to the Palace of Whitehall a little towards the north-east. The law courts have since moved to the Royal Courts of Justice, close to the border of the City of London.

The Westminster area formed part of the City and Liberty of Westminster and the county of Middlesex. The ancient parish was St Margaret; after 1727 split into the parishes of St Margaret and St John. The area around Westminster Abbey formed the extra-parochial Close of the Collegiate Church of St Peter surrounded bybut not part ofeither parish. Until 1900 the local authority was the combined vestry of St Margaret and St John (also known as the Westminster District Board of Works from 1855 to 1887), which was based at Westminster City Hall on Caxton Street from 1883. The Liberty of Westminster, governed by the Westminster Court of Burgesses, also included St Martin in the Fields and several other parishes and places. Westminster had its own quarter sessions, but the Middlesex sessions also had jurisdiction. The area was transferred from Middlesex to the County of London in 1889 and the local government of Westminster was reformed in 1900 when the court of burgesses and parish vestries were abolished, to be replaced with a metropolitan borough council. The council was given city status, allowing it to be known as Westminster City Council.

The underground station was opened as Westminster Bridge on 24 December 1868 by the steam-operated Metropolitan District Railway (MDR) (now the District line) when the railway opened the first section of its line from South Kensington. It was originally the eastern terminus of the MDR and the station cutting ended at a concrete wall buffered by timber sleepers. The approach to the station from the west runs in cut and cover tunnel under the roadway of Broad Sanctuary and diagonally under Parliament Square. In Broad Sanctuary the tunnel is close to Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s church and care was required to avoid undermining their foundations when excavating in the poor ground found there.

The station was completely rebuilt to incorporate new deep-level platforms for the Jubilee line when it was extended to the London Docklands in the 1990s. During the works, the level of the sub-surface platforms was lowered to enable ground level access to Portcullis House. This was achieved in small increments carried out when the line was closed at night.


LOCAL PHOTOS
William Shakespeare
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Waterloo Bridge on an 1810 map.
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Hungerford Stairs circa 1828
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In the neighbourhood...

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William Shakespeare
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Trafalgar Square was a former station on the Bakerloo Line before it combined with Strand station on the Northern Line to become the new Charing Cross underground station.
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Strand stretches along the River Thames between Trafalgar Square and Aldwych
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Hungerford Stairs circa 1828
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Buses outside the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square.
Credit: Stockholm Transport Museum
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Westminster Abbey with a procession of Knights of the Bath (1749)
Credit: Canaletto
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The Strand front of Northumberland House (1752) The Percy Lion is atop the central façade and the statue of Charles I at right survives to this day.
Credit: Giovanni Canaletto
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The original, Brunel-built Hungerford Bridge.
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Broadway SW1
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The site of Spring Gardens on the Agas map (1561)
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