To my surprise, one of the National Trust estates that I liked the best was Chartwell, the principle home of Winston Churchill. I knew my husband would like it. I thought there would be several military rooms and manly stuff. I was pleasantly surprised at how “down to earth and homey” it was. I didn’t realize Winston Churchill liked to paint. There are beautiful water color paintings throughout the home, that he painted. The house commands a spectacular view across the Weald of Kent, the primary reason for it’s purchase, since the farmhouse “had no architectural merit.” The gardens and surrounding countryside were inspirational for Churchill’s paintings. The entire home has been preserved as it would have looked when Churchill owned the home, with original furniture, books, and some of the medals and honors that Churchill received. His wife, Clementine, left her mark in the gardens. The Golden Rose Garden, a gift from their children for their Golden Wedding Anniversary, is not to be missed. A rock garden feature caught Lady Churchill’s eye at the 1948 Chelsea Flower Show and the designer, Gavin Jones, gave it to her! There is a large kitchen garden which produced hampers of food for the Churchill’s London home or for 10 Downing Street, when they were away from Chartwell. The hampers of vegetables were sent by car every Monday and by train on Thursdays, to the cook, Mrs. Georgina Landemare. Churchill built the walls around the gardens himself (at ninety bricks per hour; (he timed himself) and their pets Rufus I and Rufus II are buried in the gardens, just like we would do. There is a cottage/playhouse (called Marycot) in the garden, built for their youngest daughter, Mary. They seemed like down to earth people to me!
This is what I learned………. about Chartwell.
The site was built upon as early as the 16th century when the estate was called, “Well Street.” There was a well at the north side of the house called, Chart Well. “Chart” is an Old English word for rough ground. Henry VIII is reputed to have stayed here when he was courting Anne Boleyn at nearby Hever Castle. In the 19th century it was a red-brick farmhouse of tile-hung gables and poky windows.
The Churchill’s bought the property in 1922, which consisted of the main farmhouse on eighty acres and three cottages. They immediately set out to renovate and update the home. I liked it because it was so light and airy with beautiful views from all the windows. The home eventually contained five reception rooms, nineteen bed and dressing rooms, eight bathrooms and a heated and floodlit swimming pool. There was also a water garden where he fed his fish and small lakes were created from dams, and were linked by steps descending from the farmhouse terraces. It was overall very tranquil. Churchill often commented, “A day away from Chartwell is a day wasted.”
In 1938, Churchill suffered big losses on Wall Street and put the estate up for sale. The industrialist, Sir Henry Strakosch, agreed to take over Churchill’s stock market shares for three years, and paid off all the debts. During WWII the home was mostly unused, due to it’s exposed position on the hill and being so near the English Channel and German occupied France. It would be potentially vulnerable to German air attacks or commando raids. The Churchill’s spent their weekends at Ditchley, in Oxfordshire, or their official country residence, Chequers, in Buckinghamshire.
In 1946 the Churchill’s could no longer afford to keep up the property, so a consortium of wealthy businessmen purchased the estate and arranged a nominal rent so the Churchills could live there until their deaths. Churchill died in 1965 and Lady Churchill decided to present the property to the National Trust at that time as pre-arranged. I think this home may have brought back too many memories for her.
Let’s take a look at this beautiful estate. First, the home. No pictures allowed inside, so we’ll see it from every angle outside! Most pictures get a look at Clementine’s roses too!
Let’s sit awhile and just enjoy the view from the terrace! I LOVED this table!
I could be very happy in one of the cottages found behind the garden walls!
A tip: Get to Chartwell early in the day. The admissions are timed, so you may have to wait to get inside the grounds, although that might be a blessing as there is a fabulous cafe there called, “Landemare”, after their cook. There are Chalkboards everywhere on the grounds with quotes from Winston Churchill!
Also, as with most National Trust properties, there is a gift shop you could spend hours in. Or you can look over lots of plants that are available to purchase and take home. Oh, if I only lived in England! I would need an 80 acre garden for all my National Trust plants! Tomorrow let’s walk through the fabulous gardens of Chartwell!