Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Former British Prime Minister’s Houses You Can Visit

Number 10 Downing Street in London is known around the world as the official residence of the sitting British Prime Minister. And it has been since Sir Robert Walpole, generally accepted to be the first British Prime Minister, took up residence here on 22 September 1735. Walpole’s family home was in Norfolk, the Palladian Houghton Hall. Since Walpole there have been 56 British Prime Ministers. And some of their homes are open to the public allowing visitors to learn more about the person and the Statesman. 

The office of British Prime Minister has been around since the 1720s, with Sir Robert Walpole recognised to have been the first. The role came about because King George I stopped attending the meetings of his ministers. It then fell on powerful premiers to act as the government’s chief executive. Sir Robert Walpole was First Lord of the Treasury, and he manipulated and influenced politics so that he became the primary figure, although he vehemently denied that he was the ‘Prime’ Minister. The role wasn’t formalised and given the formal title until the late 1800s.

Since then, and as of 2023, the United Kingdom has had 57 different Prime ministers, from the great and the good to the weak and unscrupulous. Many are largely forgotten, while others stand out in the national consciousness. Many saw out their final days in the grand stately homes they acquired as a result of their premierships. Often these make for fascinating viewing, giving a different perspective on the private, domestic lives behind the very public, political figures.

Chartwell, Winston Churchill Family Home

Churchill lived at Chartwell from 1922 to 1965. Originally built in Tudor times the house has been extended and renovated extensively since. It is set in magnificent gardens in the Weald of Kent. In 1946 the house was given to the National Trust. Churchill and his family continued to live there until his death in 1965. A tour of the house takes in many of the rooms in which he worked and raised his family, including his study and art studio. It retains a homely feel with personal photographs and many of his official gifts, all the while presenting details about his life and premiership.

Arundells, Edward Heath's Home

Located in The Close, Salisbury in Wiltshire, Arundells was the private home of Sir Edward Heath, Prime Minister from 1970 to 1974. Originally a medieval canonry, the house was redesigned in the early 18th century with a Queen Anne style façade looking out on to Salisbury Cathedral. The house contains his personal collection of art and memorabilia. Including paintings by Winston Churchill, John Singer Sargent, John Piper and Walter Sickert, David Lloyd George’s writing desk, Chinese ceramics from Chairman Mao and and items from Fidel Castro and Richard Nixon.

Hughendon Manor, Benjamin Disraeli's Home

A Victorian redbrick manor house, Disraeli’s country residence is set in the Chilterns of Buckinghamshire. Now run by the National Trust, the rooms and displays off an insight into the flamboyant and colourful personality of Victoria’s favourite Prime Minster. The house is decorated as it might have been at the time it was occupied by Disraeli and contains a collection of memorabilia including family portraits, Disraeli’s furnishings, a library with Disraeli’s novels and one written and signed by Queen Victoria. Also open are rooms in the west wing that housed the Hillside operation. In these exhibits reveal the story of the top secret map-making facility that operated here in WWII.

Highgate, David Lloyd George's Boyhood Home

In the small, Welsh town of Llanystumdwy is Highgate, the stone built cottage where David Lloyd George spent much of his childhood. The cottage has been decorated to appear a it might have when George was a boy in the late 19th century. Following the death of his father, it was his mother’s brother, Richard Lloyd – a shoemaker – who made it possible for the family to carry on living in the cottage. Along the road from Highgate is the Lloyd George Museum, with extensive exhibits about is personal and political life. A visit to the cottage is included in the entry to the museum.

Tŷ Newydd, David Lloyd George's Home

Tŷ Newydd, which translates literally as ‘new house’, was the final home of David Lloyd George. British Prime Minister during the First World War. Lloyd George bought Tŷ Newydd in 1942, and lived here with his wife from 1944 until his death on 26 March 1945. The first house here was built in the 15th century. The George’s had it substantially renovated by the architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. Today the house is a Grade II listed building and home to the National Writing Centre of Wales.

Houghton Hall, Home of Robert Walpole

Built in the 1720s for Britain’s first Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, Houghton Hall in Norfolk is one of England’s finest Palladian houses. The magnificent state rooms were sumptuously decorated by William Kent, with painted ceilings and suites of carved and gilded furniture. Walpole was an extravagant host, and the house reflects this still today. The house is set in an extensive park. The stables house the Soldier Museum, the largest private collection of model soldiers in the world. Houghton Hall is now the home of 7th Marquess of Cholmondeley, but is open to the public.

Stratfield Saye House, Country Home of the 1st Duke of Wellington

Stratfield Saye House was the stately home of Arthur Wellesley, the 1st Duke of Wellington, from 1818 to 1852. The estate was acquired by the Sate as a gift to Wellington for leading the victory against Napoleon. Plans for a ‘Waterloo Palace’ to rival Blenheim Palace were abandoned due to the cost. Improvements were then made to the existing building. The Wellington Exhibition, which presents the life and times of the Duke with a large collection of military artefacts, is housed in what were the stables – Grad II listed buildings in their own right. Visits are by guided tour only, which must be booked in advance.

Apsley House, London Home of the 1st Duke of Wellington

Apsley House is the London townhouse of the Dukes of Wellington. Built in the 1770s by Robert Adam, and extensively remodelled for the 1st Duke of Wellington when he bought it from his brother to pursue a career in politics. Known as ‘Number One, London’ because it was the first house visitors passed after the Knightsbridge toll gates. Although still a private residence for the Dukes of Wellington, parts of the house are open to the public. Including the Wellington Collection, one of the finest collections of art in London.

William Gladstone's Library

William Gladstone’s home in Hawarden, the 18th century Hawarden Castle, is not open to the public. The nearby Gladstone’s Library is. Gladstone was Britain’s Prime Minister on four separate occasions during the 19th century. He founded his Library in 1889 in a temporary building, personally involved with the physical transfer of many of his books to the library. The library we can visit today, the only Prime Ministerial Library in the UK, was opened in 1902. Today there are over 150,000 printed books and pamphlets. The library’s reading rooms are open to registered users or visitors staying overnight. A 30 minute guided tour is offered on the last Friday of each month.

Archaeology Travel Writer

Thomas Dowson

With a professional background in archaeology and a passion for travel, I founded Archaeology Travel to help more people explore our world’s fascinating pasts. Born in Zambia, I trained as an archaeologist at the University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa) and taught archaeology at the universities of Southampton and Manchester (England). Read More

Recently Published on Archaeology Travel

Read More
Read More
Read More

Community Comments

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments