What is the Ministry of Defence guarding beneath its building that could be of interest next time you’re in town?
On your next trip to the UK’s iconic capital you might like to call to request an appointment to visit the cellar of the Ministry of Defence. But don’t expect to find bellicose artefacts stored there: it’s all about wine not war! When still Whitehall Palace, the cellar was built by Cardinal Wolsey at the beginning of the 16th century to house his collection (incidentally he was responsible for the first recorded order of champagne from France).
When Wolsey lost power, it became the property of King Henry VIII but was then forgotten about until rediscovered in the 1940s and moved 3 metres to the west and six metres deeper. This remarkable feat of engineering saved the wine cellar, which is perfectly preserved and has a typical Tudor vaulted roof, pillars and brickwork. It’s around 70 feet (21.3 m) long and 30 feet (9.1 m) wide, and is the only remaining part of the Whitehall Palace which was not destroyed in 1698.
Unknown to many, this hidden London gem is definitely worth a visit, but because of tight security a previous appointment is necessary. Call 0870 607 4455 and fix a time. You won’t be disappointed! Travel to Embankment or Charring Cross tube stations to get to the Ministry.