No. 10 Downing Street stands on an ancient site where traces of both Roman and Saxon buildings have been found.
In the Middle Ages, a succession of buildings stood on this site, including the brew-house of the Abbey of Abingdon.
In 1530, Henry VIII built an enormous rambling palace that filled the site from St James's Park to the Thames and from Westminster to Charing Cross.
The palace - named Whitehall - took in the whole area either side of the street named after it. It was the official residence of the kings and queens of the 16th and 17th centuries, (Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, James I, Charles I, Charles II, James II, William and Mary) until it was destroyed by fire in 1698.
The Banqueting House is the only building that survives from those days.
The modest aspect of the Prime Minister's official residence, No. 10 Downing Street, and the unpretentious front, are deceptive: there are, in fact two houses.
That facing Downing Street is a typical late 17th century town house (re-fronted in the 18th and enlarged in the 20th centuries).
Downing Street was developed by speculator George Downing, who returned from America during the English Civil War and became Cromwell's Scoutmaster (or Chief of Intelligence). He realised that the closeness to the Palace of Westminster made the site potentially valuable to build on. The street was built in 1684.
The last private resident of 10 Downing Street was a Mr Chicken, about whom little is known apart from his name.
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