Whitehall, Horse Guards and spies
As promised, ‘Part II’, of what we uncovered around the streets of Westminster has arrived.
In ‘part I’ I shared the history, intrigue and stylish architecture around Westminster. Here we take a wander around Whitehall, where politicians, spies and influential figures past and present have played a role.
The Palace of Westminster and 'Big Ben'
Don’t forget to head into Horse Guards and the Parade ground, if you arrive on the hour, you’ll catch them changing guard.
Did you know?
Off to Whitehall
This stretch of road is so recognisable, and once again steeped in so much history. From Parliament Square in the south to Trafalgar Square in the north.
If you ever watched the London Armistice Day remembrances, featuring our reigning monarchs, it will soon become familiar where you are.
‘Monty’ Field Marshal Viscount Montgomery
The Cenotaph stands proud as a poignant memory and the symbol that it represents to so many people.
For me, the ‘Monty’ statue along Whitehall is significant. As my grandfather fought in the Eighth Army regiment at El-Alamein in north Africa and the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy.
Just north of the Cenotaph is the Monument to the Women of World War II.
I love this monument; it is so thought-provoking. Each of the 17 uniforms and outfits, symbolises the hundreds of jobs women undertook while men were away fighting.
Monument to the Women of World War II
Want to discover more than about London?
We've a little book on our shelves that we sometimes delve into when we're about to hit an area of London.
Packed full of historical facts, and broken down into the different regions of London, it's a great resource to help you see what's hidden in plain sight.
Available in Kindle & Hardback editions, it's an excellent addition to anyone's collection who loves London.
A political story on every corner
Also, along this historic road is the Old War Office, HM Treasury, Old Admiralty Buildings, the Cabinet Office, Downing Street and Banqueting House.
Three-Arched Bridge over King Charles Street
Banqueting House is the only remaining building from the Palace of Whitehall. Its architect was Inigo Jones, it was built in 1622 and used for the residence of English monarchs, along with other palace buildings.
A statue to Field Marshal Earl Haig on horseback
Unfortunately for King Charles I of England he was beheaded on a scaffold in front of Banqueting House on 30th January 1649, for high treason.
Have you seen?
Horse Guards Parade, Changing of the Guard and Trooping of the Colour, they all just cry out British pageantry.
Just as we arrived at Horse Guards, the Queen's Life Guard dismounted and mounted sentries were changing guard. This takes place every hour from 10am until 4pm.
Changing of the Guard
Every day the Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment ride down from Hyde Park Barracks in Knightsbridge to take over guard duties at 11:00am (Sundays at 10:00am) for the next twenty–four hours.
Wander through the arches to Horse Guards Parade, and you just feel centuries of tradition.
Old Admiralty Building within Horse Guard Parade
It’s within this parade ground that the Trooping of the Colour takes place annually, on the second Saturday in June.
There are various memorials and statues around Horse Guards.
Guards Memorial, overlooking Horse Guards Parade
The Guards Memorial was erected in 1926, to commemorate those who lost their lives from the Guards Division during the First World War.
Another interesting monument was the French mortar Cádiz Memorial. It commemorates the siege of Cádiz in Spain in 1812. It’s also known as the "Prince Regent's Bomb" and went on display in 1816. The ‘dragon” is based on Dante's monster, Geryon.
Cádiz Memorial in Horse Guards Parade
Also, within Horse Guards is the Ottoman Gun, which was captured from the French at the Battle of Alexandria in Egypt in 1802. It was made by Murad, son of Abdullah, Chief Gunner in 1524.
The Ottoman Gun in Horse Guards Parade
A helpful guide
If you've yet to discover London and its ancient history, then let's start planning. I find these DK Eyewitness Travel Guides invaluable. They're extremely informative, easy to follow, and the pictures and maps tempt you into discovering more of those fascinating sites.
You can now grab a recently revised copy of this guidebook, so you won't miss a thing.
Spies fact & fiction
You never know what goes on behind closed doors and who doesn’t love a bit if spying and intrigue, particularly of James Bond is involved.
Firstly, there’s the MI5 building along Millbank, the UK’s domestic counterintelligence and security agency.
Not to be mixed up with MI6 the foreign intelligence service, which is located diagonally opposite across the River Thames.
The MI5 Building, Westminster
Secondly, if you’re strolling around Victoria, just a stone’s throw from the station is Victoria Square. This is a tranquil little square encircling a delightfully secluded garden. Although at no. 16 it is believed to be where Ian Fleming lived and hatched his spy thrillers for 007.
Victoria Square, Westminster
No. 16 Victoria Square
Is this M of James Bond fame?
Then at no. 2 Whitehall Court, you’ll find the Blue Plaque for Sir Mansfield Cumming, who was the First Chief of the Secret Service. The original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming were based on Sir Mansfield Cumming. Fleming chose to name his chief 'M' from Cumming's first name, Mansfield.
Here’s our little piece of James Bond, a Royal Doulton ‘Jack’ from Skyfall.
'Jack' from Skyfall, by Royal Doulton
Scotland Yard - Old & New
Keeping with the Skyfall theme, we’re now in Great Scotland Yard. This is the original location of Scotland Yard, the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service and how it obtained it its name.
For the eagle-eyed amongst you, this is also the road where part of the car chase scene from Skyfall was filmed.
I’m sure it hasn’t slipped the attention of Harry Potter fans, that Great Scotland Yard is the street used as the entrance to the Ministry of Magic.
Appearing in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, this filming location was home to the telephone box that transported witches and wizards to the Ministry.
Great Scotland Yard, Westminster
Scotland Yard has since moved down by the Thames, next to Victoria Embankment Gardens, and is now known as New Scotland Yard.
New Scotland Yard, Westminster
Don’t miss taking a stroll through Victoria Embankment Gardens. There are some touching and beautiful memorials located here dedicated to services that lost their lives in conflict.
The Fleet Air Arm Memorial
Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial
It’s good to talk!
Places to visit
There are plenty of places to visit while you’re around Westminster and quite often there is a charge.
However, if you love art, then head to Tate Britain.
This fascinating gallery, along Millbank on the banks of the River Thames, is free of charge.
Steps to the Tate Britain
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Inspired to stroll amongst spies in Westminster?
Then grab your overnight bag and let’s start planning.
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