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
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
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
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
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
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