A brief history of the Downing Street lectern

The Downing Street lectern has once again taken centre stage as Britain's new Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is ushered in

Rishi Sunak arrives at Downing street
Britain's newly appointed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak arrives at the podium to deliver a speech outside 10 Downing Street on October 25, 2022
(Image credit: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

Marking the tumultuous start of a series of excited opening speeches and ashamed resignations, David Cameron’s lectern was the first of four bespoke designs that made it to the front of number 10 Downing Street over the last six years. Each lectern seems to wishfully set a tone for each ministerial leadership stint, with the wildly different designs exposing the public image that the respective Prime Ministers hope to emit. 

The furniture designs, which take about three weeks to create and cost between £2,000-£4,000 (explains Evening Standard writer Nuray Bulbul), range from the grand to the muted, and feature the Royal Coat of Arms on round or ovular plaques.

Downing street Lectern with Larry the cat

Larry the Downing Street cat walks past the Lectern before British Prime Minister Liz Truss makes a statement prior to her formal resignation outside Number 10 on October 25, 2022

(Image credit: Leon Neal/Getty Images)

David Cameron’s ‘Blond wooden affair, with a swooping hourglass profile that summoned images of champagne flutes and corseted waistlines,’ as described by The Guardian's architecture and design critic Oliver Wainwright, was followed by Theresa May’s sombre wooden stand. Its slight orange tinge and minimal design characterised the second female Prime-Minister’s move into power. The lectern appeared to be a functional alternative to her predecessors, a change in tone that unsurprisingly did not stick with the grandiosity of Boris Johnson’s move onto Downing Street.

Downing Street lectern carried by two members of staff for Boris Johnson

Staff members bring out a lectern ahead of a statement by Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson in front of 10 Downing Street on July 7, 2022

(Image credit: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images)

Johnson’s broad structure appeared to be closely aligned with the lectern from the White House briefing room, in dark wood and featuring a wide, stepped base. Perhaps the biggest impression made of all the lecterns was in Liz Truss’ swirling, disjointed pale wooden form. An intriguing design has been used for the structure, as each layer to its stand appears separate from one another and sits slightly out of line in the graduating column. There’s clearly a changing tone in the linear structure that Rishi Sunak’s podium holds, taking a form similar to that of May’s, his is the first podium that hasn’t been personally designed due to the speed at which he entered office, and perhaps marks the end of an awkwardly executed series of designs.

Downing street lectern carried by a member of staff for David Cameron

A lectern is brought out ahead of Prime Minister David Cameron's leaving speech on July 13, 2016

(Image credit: Carl Court/Getty Images)

Martha Elliott is the Junior Digital News Editor at Wallpaper*. After graduating from university she worked in arts-based behavioural therapy, then embarked on a career in journalism, joining Wallpaper* at the start of 2022. She reports on art, design and architecture, as well as covering regular news stories across all channels.