Rare photos from inside Number 10 Downing Street
Follow us through the grand Edwardian entrance and into the magnificent rooms of the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government.
To mark the Gardeners’ Question Time special – in which we invited a small audience to watch the programme recorded at Number 10 Downing Street – we offer a rare glimpse into the building and grounds at the pinnacle of British politics.
The front door of Number 10 Downing Street
It’s made to look like the original wooden door with Georgian panelling; however it is actually a steel-reinforced security door fitted in 1991. Despite the modest townhouse appearance, the house is formed of three properties and is deceptively large as the Gardeners’ Question Time team found out.
The Pillard Room
Number 10 Downing Street has three state drawing rooms: the Pillard Room is the largest. Built by the 18th-century architect Robert Taylor around 1796, the room is used for hosting events and grand receptions. There is a striking Persian carpet in the centre of the room which is a replica of the 16th-century original, now stored at the Victoria and Albert Museum.
The State Dining Room
Used for formal dining receptions and press conferences, the State Dining Room is the largest room in the building. It was designed by the architect Sir John Soane in 1827 and built over the vaulted stone kitchen of one of the original properties. A painting of George II by John Shackleton hangs above the fireplace and overlooks the dining room table, which is normally positioned under the arched two-story ceiling and in the centre of the room.
The Grand Staircase
The staircase is one of the most recognisable areas of the building. Black-and-white portraits of former Prime Ministers are placed in ascending chronological order. Photos from past Cabinets and Imperial Conferences are placed at the bottom.
Eric Robson (centre left) stands against the mahogany banister of the Grand Staircase with Gardeners’ Question Time panellists Matthew Wilson (left), Pippa Greenwood (centre right) and Christine Walkden (right).
The Terracotta Room
Sir Robert Walpole – considered de facto as the first Prime Minister of Great Britain – used this space as a dining room during his time in office. It now serves as the second reception room of the property and has undergone several redecoration phases, one of which was under Margaret Thatcher's leadership when the room was painted green.
The half-acre garden and terrace wraps around Number 10 and Number 11. Margaret Thatcher was particularly fond of the plants and was famously photographed picking tulips in 1985. On a return visit during Tony Blair’s time in office, she told off Downing Street’s Head Gardener Paul Schooling, after noticing that some of the roses had been changed. More recently the L-shaped lawn and flowering rose bushes were used by Nick Clegg and David Cameron as the backdrop to the 2010 coalition announcement. Find out more about the garden and terrace as Eric Robson is given a tour of the grounds in Gardeners' Question Time.