Horse Guards Parade in London
Horse Guards Parade is a large parade ground off Whitehall in central London, at grid reference . It is the site of the annual ceremonies of Trooping the Colour, which commemorates the monarch's official birthday, and Beating Retreat.
Horse Guards Parade was formerly the site of the Palace of Whitehall's tiltyard, where tournaments (including jousting) were held in the time of Henry VIII. It was also the scene of annual celebrations of the birthday of Queen Elizabeth I.
The area has been used for a variety of reviews, parades and other ceremonies since the 17th century.
It was once the Headquarters of the British Army. The Duke of Wellington was based in Horse Guards when he was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. The current General Officer Commanding London District still occupies the same office and uses the same desk. Wellington also had living quarters within the building, which today are used as offices.
For much of the late 20th century, Horse Guards Parade was used as a car park for senior civil servants; about 500 were granted the privilege, which was known as the 'Great Perk'. The Provisional IRA's mortar attack on 10 Downing Street on 7 February 1991, which was carried out from a vehicle parked in Horse Guards Avenue near to Horse Guards Parade, led to concern about security. In April 1993 the Royal Parks Review Group, headed by Dame Jennifer Jenkins, recommended that Horse Guards Parade should be restored for public use, and linked to St James's Park by closing Horse Guards Road. The proposal was taken up by the Department of National Heritage but then resisted by senior Cabinet members, apparently under pressure from the civil servants who were to lose their parking places. Public revalation of the resistance led to considerable criticism, with Simon Jenkins urging the Head of the Home Civil Service Sir Robin Butler to remove the car park as a part of his reforms.<ref name="Perk" />
In late 1996 Horse Guards Parade was cleared in order to be resurfaced. Finally in March 1997 it was announced that car parking on Horse Guards Parade was to be ended. Vehicles are no longer permitted to park anywhere in the area.
The parade ground is open on the west side, where it faces Horse Guards Road and St. James's Park. It is flanked on the north by the Old Admiralty and the Admiralty Citadel, on the east by William Kent's Horse Guards — formerly the headquarters of the British Army — and on the south by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the rear garden wall of 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister. Access to this side of Horse Guards Parade is now restricted for security reasons.
A number of military monuments and trophies ring the outside of the parade ground, including:
- statues of Field Marshals Kitchener, Roberts and Wolseley
- a Turkish cannon made in 1524 "by Murad son of Abdullah, chief gunner" which was captured in Egypt in 1801
- the Cádiz Memorial, a French mortar mounted on a cast-iron Chinese dragon which commemorates the lifting of the siege of Cádiz in Spain in 1812
- the Guards Memorial, designed by the sculptor Gilbert Ledward in 1923-26 and erected to commemorate the First Battle of Ypres and other battles of World War I.
In 2003 the Royal Naval Division Memorial, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1925, was returned to its original site in Horse Guards Parade and rededicated on "Beaucourt Day" (13 November 2003).
An oddity is the black background to the number 2 of the double sided clock which overlooks the Parade Ground and the front entrance, it is popularly thought to commemorate the time the last absolute monarch of England, Charles I, was beheaded at the Banqueting House opposite.
The 2012 Olympics
Horse Guards Parade will host the beach volleyball competition of the 2012 Summer Olympics held in London. Temporary courts and seating will be installed, much as seating is installed annually for Trooping the Colour. There will be one court with a capacity of 15,000 with two tiers and four floodlight towers at each of its corners, two practice courts to the east of the arena, and a further six practice courts at St. James's Park.
London Polo Championships
Horse Guards Parade hosted the 1st London Polo Championships on the 17th & 18 June 2009 with a host of teams from around the world.