The History of Kent
Copyright Kent Past 2010
Much is known of the professional life of Sir Winston Churchill, the interior aspects
of his personal life, however, remain relatively unexamined—and underappreciated.
Chartwell Manor, Churchill’s much-
In September 1922, when Winston Churchill purchased Chartwell Manor for £5,000, expressly against his wife Clementine’s wishes, it was in a sorry state. Neglected and unkempt on the outside, with a hodgepodge of rooms added gradually and seemingly at random within, Chartwell needed major renovations.
Known originally in the 14th Century, as ‘Well-
Clementine, on the other hand, saw in Chartwell only a bottomless money pit: accustomed to her husband’s proclivity to spend recklessly and live beyond his means, Lady Churchill feared the bulky, Victorianised house would stretch their already strained family finances to the breaking point. In this fear, she was not far off the mark. Chartwell took several years, heaps of patience and more than £10,000 to renovate; on-
Like many married couples of the era, Winston and Clementine kept separate bedrooms; they set their daily lives at Chartwell to entirely different schedules. Whereas Winston was a late riser, who enjoyed working into the wee hours of the morning and breakfasting in his four-
The many personal mementos, pictures, clothing, artwork and books carefully presented throughout the house help to recapture the statesman’s spirit. ‘To one who has built his own house or renewed an old home’, wrote Gordon Banks, former President of the Manuscript Society, after a visit to Chartwell in 1969, seeing Chartwell in person is a ‘nostalgic experience’. ‘One can visualise Sir Winston, feet apart, waving his cigar . . . as he plans yet another campaign of restoring or preserving the grandeur and charm of the English past. Unlike many, he did not indulge in the grand manner of elaboration. The house called Chartwell is a home elaborated only by the symbols of greatness casually laid here and there’.
Churchill’s stamp is especially apparent in the large studio hung with his original paintings near the bottom of the garden. Although he did not pick up a brush until the age of 40, Churchill became an accomplished painter, producing a total of more than 500 pieces of artwork during his later years. ‘Painting is complete as a distraction. I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind’, Churchill explained in Painting as a Pastime (1932). ‘When I get to heaven, I mean to spend a considerable portion of my first million years in painting so as to get to the bottom of the subject’. Consequently, Chartwell is jam-
Winston Churchill loved Chartwell. He loved working and walking in the gardens, feeding the pigs, fish and other animals on the estate, staring out across the two lakes on his land to the Weald of Kent beyond, and tackling robust building projects himself. The hillside gardens alone are well worth a visit to the estate. A walk around the grounds through the terraced garden, Clementine’s Rose Garden and the kitchen garden evokes Churchill’s wide-
Chartwell, a house that once belonged to England’s greatest 20th century statesmen, is now an integral part of the British national inheritance. All Churchill fans, as well as those who would like to know more about Churchill the man, should visit this fascinating family home and soak in the history of its rooms, corridors and gardens. See the many roles of Winston Churchill: politician, historian, farmer, bricklayer, host, father, painter, and, now, international symbol of Britain.
Leave your email address to receive Kent Past Times free every month