The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Welcome to our The Foreign and Commonwealth Office history section. You can skip to subsequent pages using the links below or simply continue reading to start at the beginning.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The handsome block of buildings collectively known as the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, between Parliament Street and St. James's Park, originally included the Foreign, Home, Colonial, and India Offices, together with the Passport Office, the Government Medical Department, the Local Government Board, and the Educational Department.

The exterior generally is after the designs of Sir Gilbert Scott, and is in the Italian Renaissance style so much affected by him. It is only fair to this great architect to add, however, that after he had been successful in a public competition, when he submitted designs in the style of revived Gothic work with which his name has been associated, he was forced by Lord Palmerston to substitute others in the style actually carried out.

Moreover, many of the finest features of his second plan were omitted to meet Ayrton's views of economy, the principal front, that towards Parliament Street, having suffered greatly by the loss of the ornamental terminals to the corner towers and the statues on the attic, which formed marked features of the original design.

In spite of these drawbacks, however, the east front, especially when seen in the early morning, with all the rich play of light and shade produced by the morning sun, is both stately and impressive, the series of sculptured spandrels by Philips and Armstead in the Whitehall front being peculiarly effective.

Next page: Side of the Quadrangle