OPEN HOUSE DAYS: THE FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH OFFICE, SEPTEMBER, 2014
This vast building on Whitehall contains many architectural and decorative treasures, probably far more than we got to see. But perhaps that was a good thing, since so much tends to make one's eyes glaze over. The building (FCO) is headed by the Secretary of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, who sits in the Cabinet. The building, designed by George Gilbert Scott, was completed in 1868; it formerly housed four separate departments: the Foreign Office, The India Office, the Colonial Office, and the Home Office.
We did not have a long wait in line before we entered, part of a throng as eager as we were to see what was inside. The stairway was stunning.
Our first major stop was the Durbar Court, center of the old India Department. The interior of this section of the building was designed by Matthew Digby Wyatt who followed themes of the British in India.
The Durbar Court was so named in 1902 when the coronation "Durbar" of King Edward VII was held there. According to a text panel, "Durbur" is an Indian
word meaning court or formal ceremony.
We had to keep reminding ourselves to look downward to appreciate the fantastic floor designs.
One of many statues, this of Warren Hastings (1732-1818), who was Governor General of India 1773-1785.
Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Falloden (1862-1933), Foreign Secretary
The Marquess of Wellesley (1760-1842), Governor General of India, 1797-1905
The Lucarno Conference Room
The Locarno Conference Room
The FCO hosted the signing of the Locarno Treaties on European peace in 1925. These rooms were the scene of the formal ceremonies, many conferences, and diplomatic dinners.
The elaborate Victorian interiors were restored from 1988 to 1992; the rooms are used for staff functions and diplomatic events.
The Locarno Dining Room
The ceilings and walls are exquisite.
The Grand Staircase
One of the Goetze murals, depicting the development and triumph of the British Empire.
During World War II, these areas were covered with temporary panels and much of the work to decipher Nazi signals took place here, the Enigma project.
In the 1960's, proposals to demolish the FCO and replace it with a contemporary structure were considered, and fortunately, discarded in favor of restoration and listing as a Grade I protected site.
Charles James Fox (1749-1806) was the first Foreign Secretary, appointed in 1782, much to the disgust of King George III, who despised Fox and all his Whig cohorts.
OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND IN 2016 IS SEPTEMBER 17 AND 18.