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Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Winston Churchill in Downing Street

This is the third in a trilogy of posts about Winston Churchill's residences.
10 Downing Street, the official residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, has been voted the most famous address in the world. The well-known black door is made of reinforced steel and has no keyhole; the door can only be opened from the inside!
So it was the official residence of Sir Winston Churchill from early summer 1940 until July 1945 (and again from 1951 to 1955) but, although he had never been PM before, he had lived in Downing Street previously. In 1924 he was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer (Minister of Finance) and the official residence of that post is number 11 Downing Street.
Number Ten, as it was colloquially known,  was originally three separate houses built by Sir George Downing in 1682. The current property contains over 100 rooms including the Cabinet Room which has sound-proofed doors.
However, for much of the war Churchill did not live at Number Ten after it was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. He lived instead in The Annexe nearby in Whitehall. Underneath this building were the Cabinet War Rooms, now a very popular museum.

Churchill at his desk at Number Ten
He spent a lot of his time there in meetings (although he only ever slept in the bedroom on three occasions), and ran it on ‘Winston time’; colleagues were expected to adapt to his way of working, staying up late at night to respond to his demands for updates on the war situation, analyzing reports and taking instructions (often with ‘Action this Day’ labels attached). He was swept from office in the General Election of 1945 but was returned in 1951.    I'm listening to the very jolly Arrival of the Queen of Sheba by Handel from his oratorio Solomon. Listen here. It's three-and-a-half minutes to lift your spirits!

14 comments:

Hels said...

On Sunday night, we saw the Churchill film called Darkest Hour. Very good film with great acting. But I note you said that for much of the war Churchill did not live at Number Ten after it was bombed by the German Luftwaffe. He lived instead in The Annexe nearby in Whitehall and particularly in the Cabinet War Rooms below.

Do you know where Darkest Hour was filmed - in the real Annexe and Cabinet War Rooms, or in specially created sets? The spaces were intolerably dark, jam packed with people and didn't seem to have fresh air.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

If those walls could talk.

bazza said...

Hels: We are due to see Darkest Hour this Thursday but I can tell you that at least some of the scenes were shot in the War Rooms which are an underground bunker which was supposedly bomb-proof. Some scenes were shot in Manchester University Library and Wentworth House in Yorkshire stood in for Buckingham Palace.
I understand that there were no studio-created sets used.

bazza said...

Arleen: I think the wall would have blushed at some of the language used! The Second World War continues to be a major source of TV and cinema films, plays and books.

Parnassus said...

Hello Bazza, 10 Downing Street may be the most famous address, but I don't know whether the pressures of living there equal the privileges. Luckily, Churchill was up to the challenge.
--Jim

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - interesting to have those extra snippets of info on the Churchill and Downing Street era ... he was an interesting man to put it mildly - but demanding, yet obviously able to 'see the bigger picture' at times of national crisis. Cheers Hilary

bazza said...

Jim: Many of our Prime Ministers don't take up their domestic residence options but obviously they do have an actual luxury apartment on the top floor which long hours must mean they do make use of it. I would have thought that the pressures of the job are great anyway and living in Downing Street couldn't make it any worse! Sadly, Churchill coped through heavy drinking.

bazza said...

Hilary: It was an absolutely classic case of "Cometh the hour, cometh the man". He had a very long political career with many ups and downs. He represented two local constituencies at various times: Epping and Woodford. I think that the British electorate favour candidates who have clearly seen strong views and Churchill fitted that description well (as did Margaret Thatcher).

klahanie said...

Greetings Bazza,

A fascinating story about Churchill and his time at number 10. You might like to know that the high school I attended in Vancouver is called, "Sir Winston Churchill high school." Also, just for the hell of it, Winston Churchill's mug, so to speak, is the leading seller in the wondrous world of Toby jugs.

As you were, old chap.

Gazza...

bazza said...

Hi Gary. I am sure you are a patriotic member of the British Empire - if it still exists. Co-incidentally I was listening to someone talking about Toby jugs on one of those daytime antiques shows this week. They have an interesting history and I think Churchill is perfect for them.

Sherry Ellis said...

A movie was recently released here in the United States about Winston Churchill. It was fascinating and well-done. I believe I saw his house when I visited the UK many years ago.

bazza said...

Sherry: I think that's the Darkest Hour movie which we are about to see over here. Churchill had many homes, some more important than others but all rather splendid! Incidentally, he was a keen gardener.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

Lots of interesting stuff here. If the door could only be opened from the inside, that could have posed some awkward scenes if someone had a wee bit too much to drink and wanted to come in...

Churchill was a fascinating character, and he left behind a ton of memorable quotes. He wasn't one to mince words, was he?

bazza said...

Susan: Apparently there is ALWAYS someone waiting behind the door to open it. When we see Government Ministers arriving in Downing Street, the door always opens as they approach as if by magic!
Churchill was not one to suffer fools gladly and he had a marvellous line in put-downs.
Lady Astor, to Churchill at a dinner party: " Winston if I were married to you I would put ground-glass in your coffee".
Churchill: "Madam if I were married to you I would drink the coffee!"
And when he was discovered the worse for drink in the House of Commons a lady MP said to him: "Winston, you are drunk!". The reply: "Yes madam and you are ugly. However, in the morning I shall be sober....."