This post may contain affiliate links
Now while exploring Open House in London, I came across The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the current brochure. And that one of the architects was George Gilbert Scott. The same man behind St Pancras Hotel and Station. One of my favourite places in London. So this was the one place that I hoped that I would visit. And I was not disappointed. We arrived and were meet with a long queue. We ended up queuing for just over an hour. Last year, this was opened both days on the Open House weekend, this year, this was only open on the Sunday.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office occupies a building which originally provided premises for four separate government departments: the Foreign Office, the India Office, the Colonial Office, and the Home Office. Construction on the building began in 1861 and finished in 1868, and it was designed by my favourite architect George Gilbert Scott. Its architecture is in the Italianate style, Scott had initially envisaged a Gothic design, but Lord Palmerston, then Prime Minister, insisted on a classical style. We arrived at the front of the queue after security checks, we entered and went upstairs and found the Dunbar Court which was beautiful.
Originally intended as an open courtyard, the eventual roof takes influence from Matthew Digby Wyatt’s work with the Crystal Palace for the Great Exhibition of 1851 and Paddington Station.
Then up more stairs to the Entente Cordiale Room. Then the Indian Office Council Chamber room, where you could watch a video of Boris Johnson the current Foreign secretary explaining what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office actually does. Then we saw the Muses Stairs which were beautiful.
You can not believe the beautiful things that are hidden and that is why I love Open House events. We then came onto to the Locarno Suites.
In 1925, the Foreign Office played host to the signing of the Locarno Treaties, aimed at reducing tension in Europe. The ceremony took place in a suite of rooms that had been designed for banqueting, which subsequently became known as the Locarno Suite. Three successive rooms that were designed by Scott as the main area for diplomatic dinners, functions and conferences. First comes the Cabinet Room, followed by the Dining Room and Conference Room, whose gilded ceiling is decorated with circular majolica plaques bearing national emblems of twenty countries.
Then we came to the the Grand Staircase. George Gilbert Scott saw the Foreign Office as a national palace or a drawing room for the nation. It is very grand and again very beautiful.
And what I was so pleased that I also found the Foreign Office cat Palmerston, doing what most cats do – sleep !
This was such an amazing experience during Open House in London. We spent over an hour inside and I loved it.