10 Downing Street

I’m sure almost all of Cecil’s research on the home of the British Prime Minister is up to his usual impeccable standards.
‘Number 10 is one of only three remaining houses on Downing, the other two being numbers 11 and 12 (all of which adjoin–having even and odd numbers on opposite sides of the street is an American practice).’
Actually all the English streets I know do have odd and even numbers on the opposite sides of the road.
Do I get a prize, or something?!

P.S. I’m sorry I haven’t put the link to the column - I got excited. Please would the moderator help out - thanks.

The details of the column are:

‘Isn’t 10 Downing Street, the home of the British PM, kind of a dump?’

I looked at the virtual tour of 10 Downing Street at www.number-10.gov.uk, and it may not be opulent, but I didn’t think it looked like a horrible dump either. I wonder if Cecil has seen recent pictures of 10 Downing?

Almost off the topic, but funny:
At my hotel, we ask guests for their addresses, mainly to send them a survey, but also in case they leave something behind. This flake at the desk checked Mr Jones in and asked for an address. He wrote “10 Downing St, London”. She noticed there was no ZIP code, so she called him later to get it, he gave her a Texas ZIP (77xxx). While scrolling through the day’s departures, the Manager noticed this and chewed flake out for knowingly accepting false addresses. SHE DIDN’T KNOW it was the PM’s house! He was stunned and asked why we hire such idiots. Our hiring philosophy: Hire the attitude, train the skills.

I’ll be there
Where I’ll teach what I’ve been taught
And I’ve been taught…

You beat me to the punch, glee. I’ve wanted to correct Cecil on that statement for years.

It is true that British street addresses aren’t always as symmetrical, however. I lived at 274 Seven Sisters Road in London and directly across the road was, I dunno, 305 or something. And I’ve been on other streets where the addresses simply defy explanation.

The link, BTW, is www.straightdope.com/classics/a2_433.html

So if other countries don’t have odd and even numbers on different sides of the streets, what numbers does the other side of the street have?

The British number system varies, depends on how old the houses are.

In Tokyo, the number system is not even vaguely comprehensible.

How do you get around? You just have to know.

Actually I read that in Japan the address numbering system starts with the first house built, then the second, etc. It’s easy to see that this of no use at all to someone looking for an address. Often people don’t even bother indicating their address. What would be the point?

Only humans commit inhuman acts.

It’s true that practically every street here has odds and evens on opposite sides of the street. However, the street where I grew up doesn’t have a number 13 because they thought the unlucky number would be too hard to sell. Any similar cases in the US?
BTW Although the PM usually lives at No.10, the current one, Tony Blair, lives next door at No.11. This is because he’s young enough to have school-age kids who still live with him and there’s more living space there than at No.10. The Chancellor only just got hitched and so doesn’t have any kids yet.
The Chief Whip is a person (currently a woman) whose job it is to make sure the MPs turn up to vote. I don’t think she uses a real whip for this, but I have no knowledge of her private life.

From what I’ve heard about the character of european parlimants, a real whip might be a very practical tool :).

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

Too true, Diceman, but surely it doesn’t only apply to European parliaments? I read a while back that some people were getting worried about the encroachment of Spanish into America, and they felt the need to legislate that English would remain the official language of the country (!). One Congressman spoke up in favour of English, his reasoning being that “If it’s good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.” If this story is true he should be kept away from knives and electricity and stuff for everyone’s sake.

Back to Cecil’s comments, though, I was kind of disappointed when they put up a big gate across Downing Street. You used to be able to walk right up to the front door to hand in petitions and stuff, which seemed pretty cool. If memory serves, they fenced the street off just after the IRA successfully landed a mortar right into the back garden, and although I don’t approve of everything they get up to, I often felt like launching some high explosive at Margaret Thatcher myself.

Aah, happy days.

My street has only one side (the other side is taken up by the rear of a school)and therefore the houses are numbered in consecutive order (ie I live in number 18 which is next to number 17 and number 19) Anyway my point is what happens in the good old US of A when this happens? Do you guys skip a number for each house that doen’t exist??

I for one want to know.


I lived on an English street where one side went up to 75, but the other reached 104. 77, 79, etc don’t exist.

P.S. Do you get misunderstandings over your name?!

I live on a cul de sac in the US with houses on only one side, the other side being taken up by about 100 yards of meadow (read: Floodplain) and then a river. The houses are numbered consecutively starting with 125, going to 142. Why they didn’t start with 100, or even 120, is a mystery to me.

Sure it’s only freshman level, but MissDavis101 is prerequisite.

The “125” may be because the street was planned to be longer, or (but you would probably be aware of this) because there’s a city-wide grid system.

Anyway, the original complaint is right. The numbering of Downing Street is not so much “English” as “old-fashioned”. Other old systems include (as in Japan) the order in which buildings were erected and other counter-intuitive (to us) notions. The odd-even system is a rare instance of most Americans (the people who prefer Star Trek to Babylon 5, feet and inches to meters, and Microsoft Windows to anything) agreeing to do things the right way

John W. Kennedy
“Compact is becoming contract; man only earns and pays.”
– Charles Williams


Yes - outside of the UK, people seem to think I am some sort of Devil worshiper and general child molester etc etc.and miss the play on words. I do so pity the people who have never witnessed the fine televisual feast which was Jimmy Greaves and Ian StJohn (the spelling of Jimmy’s surname is wrong I believe!) doing their football punditry (is that a word??)

It was the best footie programme ever…

The name comes from a “thrash metal” song I once heard - the vocalist screams “SATAN” over and over - you think the song is about SATAN and then it all goes quiet and he yells GREAVSIE - and I thought these sorta bands had NO sense of humour!!!

In reply to oedipus:

It was Texas governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson in 1924 who said, “If English was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for me.”

This quote has a very Urban Legend-ish feel to it. What’s your source, Wendall. I ask because I’ve always suspected that it was made up as a joke by a hispanic comedian like Cheech Marin.

“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

[qoute]My street has only one side (the other side is taken up by the rear of a school)and therefore the houses are numbered in consecutive order (ie I live in number 18 which is next to number 17 and number 19) Anyway my point is what happens in the good old US of A when this happens? Do you guys skip a number for each house that doen’t exist??

Yes, that’s exactly what we do. Sometimes even more than one number is skipped if the city planners think the current lots might get subdivided in the future.

Another thing that usually goes on in the US that no-one has commented on is that the numbers will increase (or decrease depending on which direction you’re driving) by 100 every block. That is, one block might contain numbers 300-327, and then the next block might contain 400-445, the next 500-531, and so on.

What I hate is when a major road passes through multiple counties or townships. The numbering will restart in each township, which often leads to confusion. When I interviewed for my current job, the directions I was given were a bit vague and I wound up one township over, trying to figure out why I could find no sign of the company in the office building at 333A Rte 46. Fortunately, I figured things out in time to get to the 333A Rte 46 in Fairfield instead of Parsippany.

If I can brag about my home town for a minute here - we have a system that is at once ingenius and hopelessly confusing.

Bear with me for a sec here - we’ve got a river that runs pretty much west to east through the city. At some point, don’t have an exact year but quite a while ago, the planners divided the city into four quadrants - the north/south split is the river, the east/west one was arbitrarily put near city hall, so we have NW, NE, SW and SW quadrants. Streets run north and south starting with Center (actually Centre, cause we’re good Canadians) Street then 1st one block away to the east and also to the west. Avenues run east and west with Centre Ave. at an imaginary line that’s theoretically the river and again 1st Ave one block north and also south. House numbers go up by 100 each block: 0-99 between Centre and 1st; 100-199 between 1st and 2nd, and so on.

What this means in practice is that a specific address can occur four (or, depending on how you look at it) eight times in the same city. For example, 2304 8th Street means nothing unless you know which quadrant it’s in (or, 2304 8th; could be one of eight places). The beauty of the system is that (once you know the quadrant) you immediately know that the address is near the intersection of 8th Street and 22nd Avenue, and this holds up anywhere the streets are numbered. Named streets pretty much ramble around whereever they want …

My brother was visiting here for the first time and the system just blew him away. I remember he saw a road sign that pointed the way to 14th St North West North. I had to explain about seven times: that would be the 14th Street in the northwest quadrant, heading North. Don’t think he ever did get it and I ended up doing all the driving.

As an aside, our neighbors to the North put in a similar system but started the numbering at 100 downtown and counted down as you got further out. A few years ago they finally hit 1st to the south and were pretty much hooped. They wisely ruled out negative numbers and just added a hundred to everything. You can imagine the mass confusion this caused …