Meet two of the most iconic British Prime Ministers

10 Downing Street

A brief history of two of the most famous residents of 10 Downing Street

No. 10 Downing Street has housed many famous and illustrious people over the years. Two of the most iconic British Prime Ministers to call it home were Winston Churchill and Harold Wilson, who both served more than one term here.

Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill was an inspirational statesman, writer, and orator who led Britain to victory in the Second World War. He served as Conservative Prime Minister twice - from 1940 to 1945 and from 1951 to 1955.

Churchill was elected as Conservative MP for Oldham in 1900, before defecting to the Liberal Party in 1904 and spending the next decade climbing the ranks of the Liberal government. Read his biography here

Churchill's warnings against the Appeasement of Nazi Germany were proven correct when the Second World War broke out in 1939. Following Neville Chamberlain’s resignation in May 1940, Churchill succeeded him as Prime Minister.

Some of his most memorable speeches were given during his time as Prime Minister, and are credited with stimulating British morale during periods of great hardship.

Churchill, who also adopted the self-created position of Minister for Defence during the war, was central in leading the British war effort.

Labour's Clement Attlee won a surprise general election victory in 1945 which saw Churchill out of office. However, Churchill would return to No. 10 in 1951, serving another four years as Prime Minister.

Harold Wilson
Prime Minister from 1964 - 1970 and 1974 - 1976. As Prime Minister Harold Wilson enacted social reforms in education, health, housing, gender equality, price controls, pensions, provisions for disabled people and child poverty.

Harold Wilson, the son of a chemist and teacher, was born in Yorkshire during the First World War. In 1924, aged 8, he visited 10 Downing Street, which would eventually become his home. Read his biography here

He entered Parliament in 1945 as MP for Ormskirk and later becoming MP for Huyton. Aged 31, he had become the youngest member of the Cabinet in the 20th century.

After Hugh Gaitskell passed away suddenly in 1963, Wilson fought and won a leadership contest against George Brown and James Callaghan. As Labour leader, he won 4 of the 5 General Elections he contested.

Wilson's government liberalised laws on censorship, divorce, abortion, and homosexuality, and abolished capital punishment.

On 16 March 1976, 5 days after his 60th birthday, he stunned the nation when he announced his intention to resign, a decision that he claimed he had made 2 years previously.

10 Downing Street
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Produced by 10 Downing Street. Images courtesy of the Government Art Collection and other external sources. With thanks to Researcher in Residence at 10 Downing Street Jack Brown of Kings College London.

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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