It’s funny but there are tourists who visit London and ask their hotel concierge or the local tourism office about how they can get tickets to tour 10 Downing Street. I really doubt that in their country you’d be able to book tickets to tour the headquarters, offices, conference rooms and private quarters of a government.
So no, I’m afraid that you can’t tour Downing Street (except by virtual tour) and you can’t go up and knock on the door.
In fact, you certainly can’t simply stroll up the street. Just because Britain may seem to be a laid back country compared to others doesn’t mean lax security. Gates prevent access to the street and there are armed guards looking after the place. You can peer through the gates but it’s doubtful that you’ll see the Prime Minister. But why would you want to when you might catch a glimpse of the most important official at 10 Downing Street?
Here he is in a photograph from 2011.
One of the men is, I believe, the then Prime Minister. The other is a visiting US president. However, the important VIP in the photograph is a top civil servant – the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office.
Here is his official portrait:
His name is Larry and he is a rescue cat, believed to be twelve years old.
The Downing Street website describes Larry’s duties as “greeting guests to the house, inspecting security defences, and testing antique furniture for napping quality”. It says he is “contemplating a solution to the mouse occupancy of the house” and has told Downing Street that such a solution is still in the “tactical planning stage”
There has been an official mouser since the reign of Henry VIII – this is a long-standing and highly respected government position.
Some of the most famous leaders in history have worked at 10 Downing Street. Leaders from other parts of the world have visited there too. But surely, none has the prestige and immeasurable value of Larry, the Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office?
In the UK, the phenomenon of the ‘indoor cat’ isn’t as widely known as it is in, for example, the United States. This means that Larry isn’t confined to the inside of Number Ten but is often to be seen enjoying the local surroundings.
Even the police who guard the front door know who’s boss.
So although you’re unlikely to catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister or any of the cabinet ministers when you visit Number 10, you might be lucky enough to spy the Chief Mouser. Far more important…
JJ is originally from the UK and has lived in South Florida since 1994. She is the founder and editor of JAQUO Magazine. You can connect with her using the social media icons below.