The very short street in central London
(W1) that is home to the Prime Minister
and much of the British Government
Named after Sir George Downing (c.1623-1684), a Harvard-educated diplomat and secretary of state for both Cromwell and Charles II, it was an ordinary street in the eighteenth century, with inhabitants including James Boswell, Tobias Smollett, and the first prime minister, Sir Robert Walpole, from 1735. With the increasing importance of the prime minister's role it is now closed off by police guards and barriers. It was originally covered by the Palace of Whitehall, which burned down in 1698.
The Prime Minister's official residence is at Number 10, the Chancellor of the Exchequer lives at Number 11, and the Cabinet Office occupies most of the north side. The Whips' Office is at Number 12. The south side is taken up by the Foreign Office. The street, which is only about 100 m long, runs westward from Whitehall, towards Horse Guards Road. It is 500 m north of the Houses of Parliament.
The characteristic black Georgian doors are often used for news conferences and photo opportunities, and by tradition when the Chancellor leaves for Parliament to present a Budget he stands in front of Number 11 to be photographed holding up his red attaché case.
The expression "Downing Street" is commonly used to mean the Government; and "Number Ten" and "10 Downing Street" for the Prime Minister or their office. (An example of metonymy.)
The PM's website for this address is