diamond geezer

 Tuesday, April 16, 2024



London's Monopoly Streets


Colour group: pink
Purchase price: £140
Rent: £10
Length: 500m
Borough: Westminster
Postcode: SW1

Whitehall is one of the most famous and historic streets in London but has been tucked away on the cheap-to-middling side of the Monopoly board, perhaps because it's not a real estate hotspot. Instead it's an administrative hub for the highest echelons of government, the focus of our Remembrance commemorations and a conduit for protest, as well as the site of what was once the world's largest royal palace. As a street it's longer than it used to be but shorter than you probably think it is, terminating short of Parliament Square at the southern end. Let's start off instead at Trafalgar Square, the pink set's focal point, and explore the less bureaucratic end first.

Whitehall kicks off with a Pret A Manger and swiftly settles into catering mostly for tourists. The first gift shop is called Memento London, a souvenir-packed honeytrap where punters are lured inside by the sight of Paddington Bear sitting on the roof of a Mini. Nextdoor is a 'magical' emporium which sells Hufflepuff scarves and Triwizard cups, plus knock-off goods from other fantasy franchises, and if you pause to window-shop a bloke in a red beanie will walk over and ask if you fancy a ride on an open-top tour bus. For higher level contemporary culture try opposite at the Trafalgar Theatre (originally the Whitehall) which has reverted to offering a diet of celeb-fronted plays now that Jersey Boys has finally vacated.

Here too are several pubs that sightseeing families might plausibly drift into, some of which are converted banks so not as traditional as they appear. I checked their menus for fish and chips and can confirm it costs £16.50 at Walkers, £17.45 at the Silver Cross, £18.50 at The Horse & Guardsman and £19.50 at The Old Shades and The Clarence, so best shop around. In particular try not to be tempted inside Café De Royale because it's not a nice place for a cuppa and a sitdown, more a candy bazaar flogging Pop Tarts and Cheetos whose sole nod to hot drinks is a machine on the counter dispensing £3.99 lattes. I'm pleased to say its interior was doggedly empty.

The first sidestreet is called Great Scotland Yard, this the location of the Metropolitan Police's first HQ. The name has followed to each subsequent site, the first being New Scotland Yard on the Victoria Embankment (1890), then New Scotland Yard in Victoria (1967), then back to the Victoria Embankment again (2016). Whitehall remains a sensitive zone, so much so that on my visit multiple police vans were parked up in the middle of the road, sharpshooters were positioned in many a doorway and several groups of gloved officers were carefully checking every single lamppost and junction box against a prescribed list in a red folder. Given that I was wandering around taking multiple photos and scribbling down notes, I'm relieved to have got away unchallenged.

And then the government buildings start. First up is the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, last year's spin-off from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, most of which remains in the building behind as the Department for Business and Trade. If nothing else it's keeping the signwriters busy. Across the road are the Admiralty Buildings, another labyrinthine civil service warren, with 26 Whitehall being where Nelson's body rested on the night before his funeral. A lot of the buildings here present an ornate and overprotective frontage to the street, with very little clue as to which policies are being enacted behind the spikes and bomb-proof drapes.

Horseguards is the chief magnet for tourists hereabouts, specifically the two large sentry boxes to either side of the entrance to the parade ground. Onlookers take it in turns to pause with cameras in front of the mounted soldier with the funny hat, then ideally stand alongside, undeterred by signs warning that Horses May Kick Or Bite. The punters' big grins are in sharp contrast to the poor sod on his saddle, who can't have imagined on signing up that deadpan performance for a TikTok audience would be the central premise of his job. Were his helmet less obstructive he'd spend his entire duty staring at the two buildings opposite, either side of Horseguards Avenue, which appropriately for Monopoly purposes turn out to be a hotel and a house.

Hotel: The Old War Office
They didn't call the hotel the Old War Office because that would be commercial suicide, instead rechristening it The OWO. Once the domain of Kitchener and Churchill. it re-opened last autumn after an eight year refit with one half now containing 85 luxury residences for multimillionaires in need of a showy London pad. The remainder comprises 120 ultra-spacious hotel suites starting at £879 a night, plus a restaurant with a Michelin starred chef and a spa with a "gamechanging holistic wellness offering". This sumptuous internal rearrangement has been paid for by a group of Singaporean investors under the 'Raffles' brand, and I mention all this in case next time you're protesting down Whitehall you want to vent your righteous fury at the obscenely rich as well just as the government.

House: The Banqueting House
The Banqueting House is the sole surviving (visible) remnant of the Palace of Whitehall, designed in full-on classical style by Inigo Jones in 1622. It has a Rubens ceiling, a Flemish balustrade and an upper window through which Charles I walked just before being beheaded. It's also very closed at the moment pending renovation so hopefully you've already been inside. The original palace was Henry VIII's creation, a sprawling collection of royal buildings between here and the Thames, and you can probably guess what colour it started out given its name. Most of the palace burnt to the ground over two days in 1698 after a washerwoman left some wet linen too close to a charcoal burner, the Banqueting House being saved after adjacent buildings were frantically knocked down as a fire break. Whitehall once terminated here at an ornate archway called the Holbein Gate, beyond which it became a much narrower thoroughfare called The Street, before that too was demolished in 1759 to improve the flow of traffic.

Continuing south, back in the present day, the government buildings now come thick and fast. First the Scottish Office and the Welsh Office (the former significantly larger), then the Orwellian bulwark of the Ministry of Defence with its protective stripe of fenced-off lawn to either side. Three heroes of WW2 are commemorated with statues out front - that's Monty, Alan and Slim - and are highly unlikely to be joined by any heroes of WW3 because this spot is ground zero for instant vaporisation. The Cabinet Office has less oppressive premises across the road, although still with armed police on guard at unmarked doors and paparazzi waiting out front hoping to capture the guilty face of an emerging minister. I merely caught a glimpse of the scrawled notes under the arm of a senior civil servant.

The memorial in the middle of the street commemorates The Women of WW2 and takes the form of a bronze monolith bearing a coat-rack hung with evocative uniforms. It's been here since 2005, is hollow to save money and was part funded by Baroness Boothroyd's winnings on the gameshow Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? The next sideroad is Downing Street, now incredibly well fortified, with a gazebo for the checking of passes on the far side of a screen of black railings. Look closely and you'll see a few remnants of the red paint someone hurled at a recent demonstration, making absolutely no impact whatsoever on government policy. We have just two buildings and a pylon of Portland Stone to go.

The Cenotaph was originally made from wood and plaster because it was intended to be temporary, but was so widely admired that Lutyens designed a permanent structure to replace it. Medals, uniforms and duffel coats have been worn here annually since 1920. The peculiarly palatial edifice opposite, set back from the road, is Richmond House which was built in 1987 to house the Department of Health. More recently it's been pencilled in as the site for a temporary Commons chamber while the Palace of Westminster undergoes urgent repairs, but a heads-in-the-sand approach has so far reprieved the building. And this is where Whitehall unexpectedly terminates, the last 100m down to Parliament Square being called Parliament Street instead. For confirmation see the street sign outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, partway down the balustrade...

...which thankfully saves me from writing two more paragraphs.

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan24  Feb24  Mar24  Apr24  May24
Jan23  Feb23  Mar23  Apr23  May23  Jun23  Jul23  Aug23  Sep23  Oct23  Nov23  Dec23
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22  Oct22  Nov22  Dec22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
broken tv
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
the greenwich wire
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
London's waymarked walks
Inner London toilet map
20 years of blog series
The DG Tour of Britain
London's most...

read the archive
Apr24  Mar24  Feb24  Jan24
Dec23  Nov23  Oct23  Sep23
Aug23  Jul23  Jun23  May23
Apr23  Mar23  Feb23  Jan23
Dec22  Nov22  Oct22  Sep22
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2023 2022
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards