A stroll around Westminster, London – Part 2

In Cities, Days Out, London, Mini Breaks, Our Journeys, Trip-Types, UK Travel by JanisLeave a Comment

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.

A close-up of the Palace of Westminster from the old court yard focusing on the neogothic detail.  In the background, you can see the top of the tower that houses 'Big Ben'

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.

Quick Links

Did you know?

That the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey including Saint Margaret’s Church, are included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. These beautiful buildings were inscribed in 1987.

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.

The Cenotaph, Westminster, London, England, UK

The Cenotaph

A brass statue to 'Monty', or Bernard Montgomery, 1st Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, in full desert battle dress in front of the Ministry of Defence building

‘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 Two in Whitehall.  The black monolith features various uniforms hanging that represent the different roles women played in the Second World War,

Monument to the Women of World War II

Want to discover more than about London?

We have 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.

The beautiful detail around Whitehall includes a three-arched bridge over King Charles Street, which is flanked on either side by buildings of state.

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.

An equine statue of Field Marshal Earl Haig on a plinth in the centre of Whitehall with the Banqueting House in the background.

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?

If you enjoy finding out a little more about London districts, take a look at the articles we created for Spitalfields, Camden Market, Clerkenwell, St James’s, Temple and Greenwich.

Horse Guards

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.

A single sentry from the Blues and Royals, in a uniform consisting of dark blue coats with vibrant red collars with red plumed helmets, marches towards three other sentries during the changing of the guard.


Three sentries from the Blues and Royals, march toward us, leaving one in position, during the changing of the guard.

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.

Standing on the gravel within Horse Guard Parade ground looking at the Old Admiralty Building in Whitehall.

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.

A portland stone memorial, with five statues of near-identical soldiers,  to those of the Guards Division who lost their lives in World War One.

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.

An iron cannon mounted in the back of a dragon on this monument in Horse Guards Parade

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.

An iron cannon mounted on an ornate carriage known at 'The Ottoman Gun', in Horse Guards Parade ground

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 entrance to the MI5 Building on Millbank, Westminster.  Home to the internal British Secret Service.

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; lined with Georgian terraced homes around a small, central, private park.  It was once home to Ian Fleming, author of the James Bond novels.

Victoria Square, Westminster

No. 16 Victoria Square, a corner apartment shaped like a cylinder, that was home to Ian Fleming.

No. 16 Victoria Square

The English Heritage blue plaque to Sir Mansfield Cumming, the first Chief of the Secret Service who live and worked in at 2 Whitehall Court, Westminster between 1911-1922.

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.

A Royal Doulton china Bulldog, in a seated postion, wearing a Union Jack 'coat' on my desk at home.  This is the same piece that features in the James Bond movie '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.

The stylish brick-built building that was the first home to London's Metropolitan Police Force, Scotland Yard, in Westminster.

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.

The iconic rotating sign for New Scotland Yard, in from of the home of the Metropolitan Police,  at its home on the banks of the River Thames in Westminster.

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 comprises a thin stone column on which stands a bronze statue of a naval airman, wearing a flying suit and helmet, and with wings attached to his arms like Daedalus from Ancient Greek mythology, resembling a winged victory or an angel.

The Fleet Air Arm Memorial

The Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens.  It consists of two Portland monoliths with a bronze medallion mounted between them.

Iraq and Afghanistan Memorial

It’s good to talk!

Please share with us the fascinating districts of London you have found and drop us a comment below. We always love to visit more.

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.

The steps leading to the neoclassical entrance to Tate Britain Gallery on the banks of the River Thames in Westminster.

Steps to the Tate Britain

Alternatively, if you wish to visit Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms and many other sites in London, then grab this Explorer Pass for discounts on these attractions.

* This post may contain links to affiliated sites where we earn a small commission at no additional charge to you.

Inspired to stroll amongst spies in Westminster?

Then grab your overnight bag and let’s start planning.

Have a peek at the latest offers from Booking.com, our preferred hotel booking website.
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