Essential Architecture-  London

Horse Guards


William Kent


between Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade








  Horse Guards viewed across Horse Guards Parade

Horse Guards is a large building in the Palladian style between Whitehall and Horse Guards Parade. It was built between 1751-1753 by John Vardy to a design by William Kent. The building was constructed on the site of the Guard House of the old Whitehall Palace, which had been destroyed by fire in 1698. The palace's tilt yard became the exercise ground of Horse Guards Parade, located behind the Horse Guards building.

The building was the headquarters of the British Army's general staff and served as the offices of the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army until the post was abolished in 1904. Horse Guards subsequently became the headquarters of two major Army commands: the London District and the Household Cavalry. The building is the formal entrance to St. James's Palace via St. James's Park (though this is now entirely symbolic). Only members of the Royal Family are allowed to drive through its central archway.

Horse Guards is always guarded by troopers of the Household Cavalry, both mounted and on foot; visiting the horses is popular with tourists. Two mounted cavalry troopers are posted outside daily from 10 am to 4 pm, and are relieved every hour. There are usually guided tours of the building on London Open House weekend, which takes place in September.