64 Victoria Street, 1909 - 1909

The Secret Intelligence Service's modest origins as the Foreign Section of the Secret Service Bureau were reflected in the austerity of its first accommodation. Both the Foreign and the Home Sections of the Bureau took up office space at 64 Victoria Street, Westminster, rented from an enquiry agent.

Ashley Mansions, 1909 - 1911

Mansfield Cumming, the first Chief, worked long hours and most weekends. He wished to find accommodation that would combine both an office and living quarters. His choice? Ashley Mansions in Vauxhall Bridge Road, Westminster.

Whitehall Court, 1911 - 1919

Flat 54, 2, Whitehall Court, Westminster, brought several advantages, not least a greater proximity to the War Office, Admiralty and Foreign Office in Whitehall, as well as more space for the expanding Service. It remained HQ until the end of the First World War.

Melbury Road , 1919 - 1926

Security issues and reductions in the Service's finances and personnel then led to a move away from Westminster to West Kensington. 1, Melbury Road combined the function of office and residence of the Chief of SIS. It was here that Cumming died in June 1923.

Broadway Buildings, 1926 - 1964

A need to return nearer to the seat of government prompted yet another relocation. By 1926 SIS had moved into Broadway Buildings, 54, Broadway, near to St James's Park Underground Station. At first, SIS and its recent adjunct, the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), occupied only the fourth and fifth floors but with the outbreak of the Second World War the whole building was taken over and GC&CS moved to Bletchley Park.

Century House, 1964 - 1994

SIS remained at Broadway for almost forty years until in 1964 it moved to Century House, a modern tower block in Westminster Bridge Road, Lambeth. This was the Service's home for thirty years during the latter half of the Cold War.

Vauxhall Cross, 1994 - present

In 1994 SIS moved to its present headquarters, Vauxhall Cross. Although almost within sight of its first headquarters, the large and prominent building on the banks of the River Thames is a far cry from the Service's humble beginnings in Victoria.

Vauxhall Cross - SIS HQ

SIS HQ is known as Vauxhall Cross, which is also the name of the junction upon which it stands - purely because of the number of roads which cross there. The construction of Vauxhall Cross put to use a long-derelict spot and created a striking public building.

History of the site

Previously the location of the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens - these were swept away in the 1850s and replaced by mainly industrial units, including a glass factory, a vinegar works and a gin distillery.

The land was eventually bought by Regalian Properties Plc. in 1983. The architect Terry Farrell won the competition to develop a building on the site - originally an urban village. Gradually the development changed to become an office block scheme and with a government agency as the final occupier, the application for offices was accepted.

Regalian were unaware that the final occupier would be SIS who needed to move from their HQ in Lambeth, Century House, as they had outgrown it and also needed a modern building to accommodate new technology and IT connectivity.

Construction and architecture

Farrell's influences for Vauxhall Cross speak of 1930s architecture (Battersea and Bankside power stations) and Mayan and Aztec temples.  Regalian issued a press release in February 1989 stating that the building had been sold for £130 million and that construction was to take three years.  During excavation of the site, the remains of seventeenth century glass kilns, three barge houses and an inn (The Vine) came to light and there was evidence of a river wall.

Layers of decks rising from the river produce no fewer than 60 separate roof areas.  12,000 square metres of glass and aluminium covering the six perimeter and internal atria were installed - the glass may look homogeneous but 25 different types were required to meet specific needs in all parts of the building.  Even the doors were especially designed.

Vauxhall Cross was also subject to rather different security requirements to those prevailing in the commercial sector.  By early 1992 the quality and complexity of the detailing was apparent.

A Royal opening

Vauxhall Cross was a mammoth project completed on schedule and to budget.  The building was completed in April 1994 and officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen in July of that year.  It has been home to the last five Chiefs.

Filming Around Vauxhall Cross

SIS HQ features in several Bond films, most prominently in 'The World is Not Enough'.  The production company, Eon Productions, filmed several sequences outside Vauxhall Cross in cooperation with SIS.  The most impressive involved an explosion which causes a large hole in the side of the building and a speed boat launching into the Thames, this was actually filmed using a 50 foot high model of Vauxhall Cross constructed at Pinewood Studios.

For security reasons, anyone wishing to film in the vicinity of SIS HQ is required to obtain authority from Lambeth Council prior to filming - The Lambeth Council Film Unit is responsible for considering requests.