Chartwell: home of Sir Winston Churchill – another ‘jolly.’
Late September I was fortunate enough to visit Chartwell, home of Sir Winston Churchill.
‘Some day, some year, there will be old men and women whose pride it will be to say “I lived in Churchill’s time”.’ The Evening Standard on the day of Churchill’s funeral.
A friend’s father – in the Navy at the time – was one of the men to carry Churchill’s coffin to the train for his final journey to Bladen, Oxfordshire, where he is buried.
Churchill lived at Chartwell with his family from 1922 until his death in 1965. In common with most people he moved home several times during his life-time, progressing gradually to a larger and grander property as circumstances and his finances allowed.
Those with an interest in Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill will know he was born at Blenheim Palace on November 30th 1874. His father, Lord Randolph Churchill, was the second surviving son of the 7th Duke of Marlborough. His mother, Jennie Jerome, was the daughter of a New York financier.
‘I like pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.’ Churchill
Although born into the
English aristocracy he did not inherit vast riches and for most of his life he was only moderately wealthy. He made his living as a writer. Politics did not bring him great wealth either.
He received almost every honour his country and many others could bestow upon him. Knight of the Garter, Companion of Honour, Order of Merit, Nobel Prize, Fellow of the Royal Society, Honorary Citizen of The United States – voted for by the public, Man of the Century, and The Greatest Briton – the list is almost endless.
He neither sought nor received a Peerage which would have taken him to The House of Lords as that would have taken him from his beloved The House of Commons.
‘I could not live without champagne. In victory I deserve it. In defeat I need it.’ Churchill
Winston took part in many battles during his younger years, either as a war correspondent or as a soldier – in Cuba, on the North West Frontier of India (at the same time one of my relatives was also fighting in the same places), and in the Sudan, South Africa, and France.
‘Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result.’ Churchill
Clementine, Lady Churchill, entered The House of Lords after she’d been created Baroness Spencer-Churchill in 1965 in recognition of her work for charity. She also
received many accolades and awards including The Order of the Red Banner of Labour, awarded by Stalin in recognition of her wartime work raising funds for aid to Russia.
Winston went to school at Harrow and from there entered the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst (a place well-known to my family because so many of them have also Passed Out as Officer Cadets, or have been Instructors there).
Sir Winston subsequently joined the cavalry.
‘History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.’ Churchill
During his time at Sandhurst it is well-known that his family kept him short of funds and he often wrote heart-breaking letters home begging for money to pay his way.
My Mother, a member of the local Historical Society, when researching information about Sandhurst for a book the Society was writing about the village, was given access to records (in the College archives) which included a viewing of Sir Winston’s letters home and the replies he received. She told me they were really quite upsetting to read.
Anyway, with all this information I was looking forward to seeing his home and the glorious grounds surrounding it. Unfortunately the day of my visit was a wet one.
It rained all the time. There was also scaffolding erected to the rear of the house which made getting a decent photo of it a tricky, and I was a little disappointed to learn that taking photos inside the house was prohibited.
The photos I took are of the grounds, his studio – where he liked to paint – and some other buildings in the grounds. I do hope you like them.
A collection of Sir Winston’s paintings are on show in his studio. I have to say a child could paint just as well, but I know appreciation of art is a personal matter. I know many love his art.
There is an appeal for his possessions to be kept at Chartwell. Funds are being raised to enable his paintings and other items in the collection, at Chartwell, to be saved by purchasing them from the Churchill family who loan them to the National Trust at the moment.
Text WINSTON to 70123 (in UK) to give £5 donation or donate at nationaltrust.org.uk/chartwell-appal
‘Just to paint is great fun. The colours are lovely to look at and delicious to squeeze out. Matching them, however crudely, with what you see is fascinating and absolutely absorbing. Try it if you have not done so – before you die.’ Churchill, Painting as a Pastime.
Because of the heavy rain (at times) a thorough investigation of the more than 816 acres, which included several individual farms at one time, was not practical. It was a mud bath on the walks and in the woodland.
Chartwell is older than it looks and although the external appearance of the house has the unmistakable 1920s look, the actual site, according to records, dates back to 1362 and there has been a house on the site since at least the early 15th century. Roof timbers surviving from the earlier house were ring-dated to between 1515 and 1546, and can still be seen in Winston’s study.
The house changed hands many times since the Middle Ages, and before Winston and his wife lived there. It had been a foundling house in the 18th century, a home for deserted children and for a long time was known as Well Street. It wasn’t known as Chartwell until the middle of the 19th century, taking its name from the Chart Well, a spring feeding the uppermost of a series of ponds north of the house.
The word Chart is Old English for a ‘rough common overgrown with gorse, broom and bracken,’ and occurs in place names throughout The Weald of Kent.
Churchill engaged architect Philip Tilden, who’d completed a new house for Lloyd George, to modernise and extend Chartwell when he and Clementine purchased it. It took longer than expected and they couldn’t move in until 1924.
‘A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.’ Churchill
Over the years they made some small changes but today it is presented to the public by the National Trust, as it looked in the 1920/1930s.
‘Garnished and furnished as to be of interest to the public.’Churchill
The tour of the house takes in his library where he contemplated the D-Day Landings. it is a comfortable room, and like the rest of the house, is very much a family home.
‘Nothing makes a man more reverent than a good library.’ Churchill
The Churchills entertained many famous and influential guests at Chartwell including Charlie Chaplin, Harry Truman, Harold Macmillan, Bernard Montgomery, Friedrich Prince of Prussia, The Queen Mother, Laurence Olivier, Lady Diana Cooper and Ethel Barrymore, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mitfords, Astors, Guinesses, Randolph Hearst and many more.
Chartwell was given to the National Trust in 1946 on the understanding that Sir Winston and Lady Churchill could live out their lives there. It has been open to the public for 50 years (2016).
There are medals, awards and so much more to see inside the house. Wonderful Art Deco furnishings and many paintings by famous artists. I’d be here until Christmas describing it all and so I suggest you visit yourself and take the tour.
In addition to the house, there are gardens, grounds, and lakes to explore with beautiful views across the Weald of Kent in a relatively unspoiled part of England. It is nestled between the chalk hills of the North and South Downs in one of the most densely wooded areas of the country.
Upon seeing Chartwell for the first time Clementine wrote she could ‘think of nothing but that heavenly tree-crowned hill.’
Sadly in the storms of 1987 23 trees were blown over and many acres of woodland were laid waste. But there is still much to see, far too much to take in on one visit.
I’ll just post the photos I have taken for you to see, and leave them to tell their own story.
Chartwell is beautiful.
Lady Churchill left Chartwell in 1965.
If you’d like to visit or know more about Chartwell here is the information:
Chartwell: Mapleton Road, Westerham, Kent TN16 1PS
+44(0) 1732 868381
Entry to the house is by timed tickets which are available from the visitor centre from 10am.
There are toilets, but not in the house or studio, for the public – also baby changing facilities. Breast feeding is welcome (I saw the signs so I thought I’d let you know, in case)…
There are picnic tables in the meadow or you can sit on the lawns, a gift shop and garden shop, a kitchen garden, a cafe and dogs on short leads are welcome but not in the kitchen garden.
There is a Canadian camp where the kids can play and they can build their own dens in the woodland area.
Fabulous walks (even when raining, just be suitably attired) with lots to see and enjoy. One walk is a 5 mile circular walk and of course there’s lots for budding gardeners to enjoy.
I hope you enjoy my short ‘jolly.’ As ever do let me know.
I’ve been rather busy of late undertaking an Archaeology course (now completed) and another Forensic Science course (my 4th) – still underway, to keep me out of mischief. Not to mention various short stories for inclusion in anthologies and my co-written novel with Christina Jones has gone off to our publisher…
I’ll share some more ‘jollies’ soon. During the last month I’ve had trips to the Lake District and other lovely places, so I’ll be posting about these as soon as time permits.
As always all photos are (c) Jane Risdon 2016 All Rights Reserved.