Richard Oliff: The many residents of No 10

The most famous front door in the UK?

The most famous front door in the UK?

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The front door of 10 Downing Street in London has to be one of the most familiar sights of its kind in the world.

It is where the First Lord of the Treasury traditionally lives during a given term of office as Prime Minister of the UK.

However, there is an assumption that every First Lord of the Treasury automatically held the “unofficial” title of Prime Minister, and for the most part this is true, but with two significant exceptions.

There are two men that are almost forgotten at large, yet one lived and died at number 10 and both held the title of First Lord.

The first was Stafford Henry Northcote, the 1st Earl of Iddesleigh who from 1851 to 1885 was a British Conservative politician. He notably served as Chancellor of the Exchequer between 1874 and 1880 and as Foreign Secretary between 1885 and 1886.

When Lord Salisbury became Prime Minister Northcote took the titles of Earl of Iddesleigh and Viscount St Cyres and was included in the cabinet as First Lord of the Treasury.

In Salisbury’s 1886 ministry Northcote became Foreign Secretary, but the arrangement was not a comfortable one, and his resignation had just been decided upon when on 12th January 1887 he died very suddenly at 10 Downing Street.

The second was William Henry Smith ll – known as “Old Morality” – who was the son of the founder of what we know today as the retailer W.H. Smith.

Smith was First Lord of the Admiralty, twice Secretary of State for War, Leader of the House of Commons and later, during Salisbury’s second administration, First Lord of the Treasury.

It’s reported, in his clashes over War Office estimates with Lord Randolph Churchill at the Treasury‚ he was “clear‚ adamant‚ and equable” whereas Churchill embarrassed himself by being excitable and offensive.