Home » London Attractions » A Short Guide to Whitehall

A Short Guide to Whitehall

Whitehall is a main road running between Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square. However, Whitehall is more widely known as the centre of the Government of the United Kingdom with its numerous departments and ministries.

There has been a route connecting Charing Cross to Westminster since the Middle Ages and was associated with Kings and Queens especially the Palace of Westminster and the Palace of Whitehall.

The Palace of Whitehall was so named in the reign of Henry VIII, it became the King’s main residence and he married Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour there, and died at the palace in 1547. Charles I used the Palace for art collection but it ceased to be a royal residence after 1689, when William III moved to Kensington Palace. The palace burned to the ground in 1698, only the Banqueting House survived and can still be seen by visitors. It was in front of Banqueting House where Charles I was taken to a scaffold and beheaded.

The area is now made up of numerous government buildings, including the old War Office building, Horse Guards, the Ministry of Defence and the Cabinet Office. In the middle of the road is the Cenotaph which was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and erected in 1919. It is the main war memorial in Britain and an annual service is held here on Remembrance Sunday, led by members of the Royal Family and leading politicians with crowds of thousands. In 2005 a national Monument to the Women of World War II was erected near the Cenotaph.

Off the main road is a road leading to Downing Street which is home to the official residences and offices of the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, there is also a shortcut to Horse Guards Parade which has been used for a variety of reviews, parades and other ceremonies for centuries.

In Whitehall, there are number of memorials and monuments including those to the Royal Tank Regiment, The Gurkha’s, Prince George, Duke of Cambridge, Spencer Cavendish, Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig, Field Marshal Montgomery, William Slim, 1st Viscount Slim.

A walk around Whitehall is reminder that power, both monarchs and state has resided here for centuries. Even today you can watch the Civil Servants and politicians going about there business mingling with the thousands of visitors walking down from Trafalgar Square to the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.

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