The Embassy of the United States of America in London is the diplomatic mission of the United States in the United Kingdom.[1] It is the largest American embassy in Western Europe[2] and the focal point for events relating to the United States held in the United Kingdom.

The new embassy in Nine Elms, London has been open to the public since 13 December 2017, and was formally opened on 16 January 2018.[3] From 1960 to 2018, it was located in the London Chancery Building in Grosvenor Square, Westminster, London.


The former embassy in 2013
Statue of Ronald Reagan outside the embassy
Statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower outside the embassy
Security barriers outside the former embassy in 2006

The American legation in London was first situated in Great Cumberland Place, later moving to Piccadilly, 98 Portland Place (1863–1866),[4] and 123 Victoria Street in Westminster (1883–1893). The legation was upgraded to an embassy in 1893 and remained at Victoria Street until 1912, when it moved to 4 Grosvenor Gardens.[5] In 1938, the embassy was moved to 1 Grosvenor Square (Macdonald House) (which also used to host part of the Canadian High Commission). During this time, Grosvenor Square began to accommodate many U.S. government offices, including the headquarters of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and the European headquarters of the United States Navy. Following World War II, the Duke of Westminster donated land for a memorial to wartime President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The American Embassy London Chancery Building was designed by Finnish American modernist architect Eero Saarinen and constructed in the late 1950s, opening in 1960. The building has nine storeys, three of which are below ground. A large gilded aluminum bald eagle by Theodore Roszak,[6] with a wingspan of over 11 metres (35 feet) is situated on the roof of the Chancery Building, making it a recognizable London landmark.[7] In October 2009, the building was granted Grade II listed status.[8][9] The building has been described as a modernist classic and architectural gem.[10]


In March 1968, a crowd of some 10,000 demonstrated at Trafalgar Square against US involvement in the Vietnam War, before marching to Grosvenor Square. The Metropolitan Police had attempted to cordon off part of the square nearest to the embassy and there was violence as the crowd broke through the police line. Police horses were used to regain control. 200 demonstrators were arrested and 50 people needed hospital treatment including 25 police officers, one of them with a serious spinal injury.[11] In October of the same year, during a demonstration organised by the Vietnam Solidarity Campaign, a splinter group of 6,000 demonstrators returned to the square. A thousand police officers formed a cordon that the protesters failed to breach and remained relatively peaceful until the crowd began to disperse when there was disorder in the neighbouring streets.[12]

Security concerns

Security at the former embassy was tightened in the 1980s and 1990s following successive terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies and consulates worldwide. However, it was after the September 11 attacks in 2001 that security was significantly increased. A massive security operation at the embassy has seen one side of Grosvenor Square closed to public access by car, and armed roadblocks are stationed outside the building. On August 29, 2002, Kerim Chatty, a Swedish citizen of Tunisian descent, was arrested at Stockholm-Västerås Airport trying to board a Ryanair Flight 685 destined for London Stansted Airport with a loaded gun in his luggage. Anonymous intelligence sources cited in the media claimed that the man was planning to hijack the aircraft and crash it into the United States embassy in London, using the rooftop eagle to identify it from the air. Sweden's Security Service, Säpo, denied the claims and called the reports "false information".[13] The man was subsequently cleared of all terrorism-related charges.[14]

The security threat against the embassy prompted the U.S. government to consider moving the embassy. Several British media outlets reported that the U.S. government had wished to use Kensington Palace as their embassy, which allegedly had been vetoed by Queen Elizabeth II, as several members of the British Royal Family have their residences there. The embassy "strenuously denied" the reports, and a spokesman for Buckingham Palace reported that no formal request had been made.[15] Another possible option was Chelsea Barracks, for which the U.S. Embassy made an unsuccessful bid in February 2007.[16]

New building

During construction of the new embassy in Nine Elms.

On October 8, 2008, the embassy announced a conditional agreement with the real estate developer Ballymore Group to purchase property for a new embassy site on the South Bank of the River Thames in the Nine Elms area of the London Borough of Wandsworth.[17] The site lies within the Vauxhall/Nine Elms/Battersea Opportunity Area as set out in the London Plan. The proposed plan would only go forward if approved by the United States Congress and by the local planning authority.[18] The Northern line extension to Battersea will have new stations at Battersea and Nine Elms—combined with major local development. The United States Department of State announced in January 2009 that it was choosing among nine architectural firms, all "modern" and "upmarket", to replace the ageing embassy headquarters.[19] In March 2009 the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations announced that four architectural firms had been selected for the final phase of the design competition.[19] By law, the architect for a U.S. embassy must be an American firm with "numerous security clearances".[19]

The new embassy in Nine Elms with construction work complete.

In November 2009, the U.S. government conditionally agreed to sell the lease of the Grosvenor Square Chancery Building to Qatari real-estate investment firm Qatari Diar, which in 2007 purchased the Chelsea Barracks.[20] Though the price was undisclosed, the lease's worth was estimated at £500 million in July 2000.[21] The development value of the property was reduced when the building was given Grade II listed status, requiring developers to maintain its current design. The building is now one of Mayfair's 238 listed buildings and monuments.[22][23] In 2016 plans were approved for the conversion of the building into a hotel.[24]

On February 23, 2010, the U.S. government announced that a team led by the firm of KieranTimberlake had won the competition to design the new embassy building and surrounding green spaces.[25] The winning design resembles a crystalline cube, with a semi-circular pond on one side (called a "moat" by The Times)[26] and surrounded by extensive public green spaces[27] and the Embassy Gardens housing development.

Ground was broken on November 13, 2013, and the building opened to the public on December 13, 2017.[28][29] US President Donald Trump had been expected to visit in February 2018 to undertake the official opening of the new embassy, but, in January 2018 announced he would not make the trip. Trump publicly criticized the cost of the new embassy and its location, as well as the apparent price received for the sale of the lease of the building in Grosvenor Square, blaming the administration of his predecessor, Barack Obama for making what he referred to as a "bad deal".[30] However, the decision to move the embassy was made before the Obama administration.[31]

Mission leaders


The United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom is Woody Johnson, who was confirmed by the Senate on August 3, 2017. He was sworn in by Vice President Mike Pence on August 21, 2017.[32]

Other diplomatic staff

Embassy sections

There are also American consulates general in Belfast and Edinburgh, a Welsh Affairs Office in Cardiff, and a contact centre Glasgow.

Previous embassy locations

See also


  1. ^ "The London Diplomatic List" (PDF). 14 December 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-12-11. 
  2. ^ "US embassy moving to south London". BBC. 2 October 2008. Retrieved 27 December 2013. 
  3. ^ McKenzie, Sheila (16 January 2018). "Billion dollar US embassy opens in London". CNN. Retrieved 18 January 2018. 
  4. ^ Derek Sumeray and John Sheppard, London Plaques (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011; ISBN 0747809402), p. 53.
  5. ^ A. Holmes and J. Rofe, The Embassy in Grosvenor Square: American Ambassadors to the United Kingdom, 1938–2008 (Springer, 2016; ISBN 1137295570), p. 2.
  6. ^ "The American Embassy London Chancery Building". US Embassy and Consulates in the United Kingdom. Retrieved 21 January 2017. 
  7. ^ "US embassy moving to south London". BBC News. 2008-10-02. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  8. ^ Historic England. "United States of America Embassy  (Grade II) (1393496)". National Heritage List for England. Retrieved 21 March 2015. 
  9. ^ Sherwin, Adam (2009-10-23). "US sale plan spoilt as its London embassy is listed". The Times. London. Retrieved 2009-11-04. (subscription required)
  10. ^ T.A. (26 September 2017). "The American embassy building in London is a modernist classic". The Economist. 
  11. ^ "On This Day – 17 March – 1968: Anti-Vietnam demo turns violent". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  12. ^ "On This Day – 17 March – 1968: Police clash with anti-war protesters". bbc.co.uk. BBC News. 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2015. 
  13. ^ Whitaker, Raymond; Hetland, Jarle; Carrell, Severin (2002-09-01). "Hijack suspect had flight training in US". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 2007-10-01. Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  14. ^ "Sweden drops hijack inquiry". BBC News. 2002-10-30. Retrieved 2006-12-27. 
  15. ^ "US 'eyed royal palace'". BBC News. 2003-08-17. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  16. ^ "US Embassy bids for Chelsea Barracks". The Times. 2007-02-21. Retrieved 2011-05-27. 
  17. ^ Lee, Matthew (2009-01-02). "US looks upscale for London embassy design". Washington: Fox News Channel. Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-11-04. [permanent dead link]
  18. ^ "U.S. Takes First Steps Toward Embassy Relocation" (Press release). Embassy of the United States in London. 2008-10-02. Archived from the original on 2010-01-27. Retrieved 2009-11-04. 
  19. ^ a b c "Department of State Selects Final Architectural Firms To Prepare Designs for the New London Embassy" (Press release). Embassy of the United States in London. 2009-03-10. Archived from the original on 2009-08-03. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  20. ^ O'Connor, Rebecca (2009-11-03). "Qataris buy US Embassy building in London". London: The Times. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  21. ^ Bourke, Chris (2009-11-03). "U.S. Embassy Building in London Sold to Qatari Diar". Bloomberg. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  22. ^ "National Heritage List". English Heritage. Retrieved 2011-07-22. 
  23. ^ "US embassy sold to Qatari group". BBC News. 2009-11-03. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  24. ^ Farrell, Sean (16 November 2016). "Qatar wins approval to turn US embassy in London into hotel". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 November 2016. 
  25. ^ Kennicott, Philip (2010-02-24). "KieranTimberlake chosen to build 'modern, open' U.S. Embassy in London". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-05-01. 
  26. ^ Philp, Catherine (24 February 2010). "US diplomats add a moat to their expenses at $1bn London embassy". Times Online. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  27. ^ "New U.S. Embassy in London". KieranTimberlake ISO. 23 February 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2010. 
  28. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-09-01. Retrieved 2013-12-30. 
  29. ^ Gray, Melissa (2009-11-03). "Qatari firm buys U.S. Embassy building in London". CNN. Retrieved 2009-11-03. 
  30. ^ "Donald Trump cancels February visit to UK". BBC News. 12 January 2018. Retrieved 12 January 2018. 
  31. ^ "Skeptics rebuttal of Trump claims". https://skeptics.stackexchange.com. 12 January 2018. Retrieved 14 January 2018.  External link in website= (help)
  32. ^ Smith, Mikey (2017-08-22). "Meet Donald Trump's new ambassador to the UK...the owner of the New York Jets". mirror. Retrieved 2018-01-12. 
  33. ^ "Deputy Chief of Mission". Retrieved 19 November 2016. 

External links