1857 – Unsuccessful Designs for Foreign & War Office, London

Architect: George Edmund Street / Coe & Hofland / Banks & Barry / Buxton & Habershon / Pritchard & Seddon / Henry Garling / Cuthbert Brodrick / John Philpott Jones





The Foreign and Commonwealth Office building originally provided premises for four separate government departments: the Foreign Office, the India Office, the Colonial Office, and the Home Office. In 1855 a decision was taken to construct a new one and a competition was held to find a design, open to everyone. The entries, more than 200 of them, were exhibited to the public in Westminster Hall in May and June 1857.

A committee was set up to adjudicate between the different designs and select three separate winners: for the Foreign Office, a War Office (later the India Office) and the ground plan. The rules of the competition precluded one man from winning in more than one category – with the resulting chaos. The rules also stipulated that although the eventual architect should be chosen from among those who had won ‘premiums’, he did not have to be the outright winner. So architects placed for their designs for a particular building. Essentially this was an ideas competition. Eventually out of this chaos George Gilbert Scott was selected as architect but has a classical style imposed on him by the then Prime Minister Lord Palmerston. Scott had only placed third in the Foreign Office category.