Chartwell, Home of Winston Churchill

After last month’s visit to the Spencer-Churchill family seat, Blenheim Palace, I promised myself a visit to Chartwell House in Kent, the private home of Sir Winston and Lady Clementine for more than forty years.  Our visit began less than fortuitously when little Lily had an attack of car sickness on the drive down and Nanny* realised that she had not thought to bring along a spare set of clothes. Never mind: the National Trust ladies in the gift shop were quick to rise to the challenge and a clean, dry hooded top was found in the lost property office. And it was pink.

In 1922, the Churchills fell in love with this property when they were looking for a family home but even from the most affectionate point of view, it has to be admitted that the magic is all in the location. The mostly Victorian, red brick house is ugly in the extreme although the team of architects and decorators who were called in to turn it into a comfortable residence found some Tudor beams “behind the panelling  in what is now the library. However, a mischievous thought did make me wonder whether said panelling had actually been located in this house or another one nearby.

We had a wonderful visit despite the fact that I was unable to linger over the paintings or memorabilia inside the house where photography is strictly forbidden. Lily was keeping a close eye on the windows for the rain to let up so that she could run down the garden and visit the “Little Girl House”. Well, Mr Churchill built the Marycot with his own hands for his youngest daughter and everything about Chartwell, from the fish pond to the French windows in the breakfast room, tells of the family man behind the statesman. He would definitely have approved of a four year old’s wishes being given priority and the viewing of his paintings being left for another time.

This gallery of pictures has had to be heavily intermingled with borrowed images because of the prohibition on photography in the house and studio. Actually, I didn’t even get to visit the studio where over a hundred of Sir Winston’s paintings are displayed, nor did we meet Jock V, the fifth ginger tomcat to inhabit Chartwell since the great man’s death in 1965.

* That’s me.

Categories: Britain, East of England

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