The Iconic Buildings of Britain
The Door to Democracy
In the City of Westminster, behind large guarded gates, stands the 100-room headquarters of Her Majesty The Queen’s Government – 10 Downing Street. Known colloquially as ‘Number 10’, this heavily-guarded residence is more than 300 years old and has been home to the head of the government since the eighteenth century.
Originally three houses, Number 10 was offered to Sir Robert Walpole, the 1st Earl of Orford, by George II in 1732. Sir Walpole graciously accepted on the condition that the property would become the office of the First Lord of the Treasury. It has sculpted some of the most important moments in British history and hosted many noteworthy politicians behind its famous black front door – from Gladstone, Lloyd George and Churchill to Attlee, Thatcher and Tony Blair.
Ancient Seat of Kings
A historic fortress that dominates the Scottish capital’s skyline, Edinburgh Castle looks down at the city below from its Castle Rock. Archaeologists have traced the rock’s history back to the Iron Age (second century AD), although the early days of settlements at Castle Rock are shrouded in mystery. It is believed that Scottish monarchs have ruled from Castle Rock since the twelfth century and the site continued to be a royal residence until 1633.
Today, the castle is Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction, with 1.4 million people visiting every year. It is the location of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo during the annual Edinburgh International Festival and the fortress is now an iconic symbol of both Scotland and its capital.
Corridors of Power and Pleasure
Hampton Court Palace in Richmond upon Thames is one of only a few surviving palaces once belonging to Henry VIII. Originally redeveloped for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1515, the palace was seized by the king after Wolsey’s fall from grace. Since then, it has seen many makeovers, none more prominent than the work done by Sir Christopher Wren in the seventeenth century.
Today, the palace and its gardens are open to the public, where visitors can explore its celebrated maze, historic tennis court and the Great Vine. Visitors to Hampton Court Palace are greeted by the King’s Beasts – ten statues of heraldic animals that line the bridge over the moat before the great gatehouse, representing the ancestry of Henry VIII and his third wife, Jane Seymour.
Praise and Pageantry
The Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, more commonly known as Westminster Abbey, is a prominent abbey church found near the Thames in the City of Westminster, London. Westminster Abbey is one of the United Kingdom’s most notable religious buildings and is the traditional place of coronations and burial sites for British monarchs. The site has been the coronation church since 1066, but the present building began construction in 1245 under order of Henry III.
Despite being known as an abbey, and previously categorised as a cathedral during the sixteenth century, the building is actually neither. Since 1560, it has had the status of a Church of England ‘Royal Peculiar’ – a church responsible directly to the sovereign. In recent years, Westminster Abbey was host to the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, as well as playing home for the wedding of Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.